Harris signs to bolster Broncos' secondary

Updated: November 22, 2006, 7:18 PM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

The Denver Broncos, thin at safety because of season-ending injuries to starter Nick Ferguson and top backup Sam Brandon, have signed veteran free agent Quentin Harris to a two-year contract.

Financial details of the contract were not immediately available, but the deal is believed to be a modest one, at or near NFL minimum base salaries. A four-year veteran, Harris was released by the New York Giants this summer after spending training camp with them. Previously, he spent four seasons with the Arizona Cardinals.

Always a strong special teams performer, Harris, 29, is expected to contribute quickly in that role for Denver.

Tuesday, the Broncos placed Ferguson on injured reserve, ending his season, after tests revealed that he had sustained a torn medial meniscus cartilage in his left knee during Sunday night's loss to San Diego. The extent of the injury, and the loss of Ferguson for the balance of the season, was unexpected, given that the seven-year veteran was able to finish the contest against the Chargers.

Brandon, a key contributor in the so-called "Big Nickel" coverage package that Denver prefers on third down, was lost earlier this month to a torn anterior cruciate ligament. That injury forced the Broncos to shuffle their nickel personnel. Now, with the loss of Ferguson, youngster Curome Cox will move into the starting lineup to team with John Lynch at safety.

Cox had taken over the nickel role, and that position might now be filled by Hamza Abdullah, a second-year veteran with limited experience.

It isn't likely that Harris, who entered the league with the Cardinals as an undrafted college free agent in 2002, will be able to help the Broncos much in scrimmage situations. He will, though, add much needed veteran depth. In 54 career appearances, including six starts, the former Syracuse standout has 42 tackles, one interception and five passes defensed.

Even after he has time to assimilate the Denver defense, Harris' primary role probably will be on special teams, where he can reduce the time Cox and Abdullah have to spend in that area. Harris has 54 special teams tackles, including 24 in 2005, one of the highest totals in the league that year, and 19 in 2004.

At 6-feet-1, 213 pounds, Harris doesn't run particularly well, but is a solid tackler.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here Insider.

ALSO SEE