Although the Texans want to retain pending free agent cornerback A.J. Bouye, they’re not expected to use the franchise tag to do so, according to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle. The Texans have just under $25MM in available cap space, so deploying a tender that’s likely to come in around $14.297MM simply isn’t tenable.
An undrafted free agent out of Central Florida in 2013, Bouye had started only eight games during his first three years in the league, but was pressed into duty in 2016 and ended up starting 11 contests. During that time, Bouye managed one interception and 16 passes defensed, and graded as the NFL’s third-best corner behind Denver’s Chris Harris and Aqib Talib, per Pro Football Focus. In the most recent edition of PFR’s Free Agent Power Rankings, Bouye ranked seventh overall, and was the only defensive back listed within the top 10.
Bouye has expressed an interest in returning to Houston, but he could be poised to cash in on the open market — earlier this month, Wilson predicted Bouye could earn as much as $13MM annually via free agency. Given that he’s only 25 years old and has just a single season of elite production, Bouye is viewed by rival general managers as the “most intriguing” free agent on the board, per Jason Cole of Bleacher Report (video link). As such, front offices must weigh the risk of Bouye being a one-year wonder versus his potential as a shutdown cornerback.
If he does reach free agency, Bouye will join a corner class that features several other high-profile defensive backs, including Trumaine Johnson, Stephon Gilmore, Morris Claiborne, Dre Kirkpatrick, and Brandon Carr.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.