A.J. Bouye

Saints Had Interest In CB A.J. Bouye

The Saints expressed interest in cornerback A.J. Bouye during the NFL’s two-day legal tampering period, according to Herbie Teope of the Times-Picayune (Twitter link). It’s unclear how aggressively New Orleans pursued Bouye after that stretch, and Bouye eventually agreed to a five-year deal with the Jaguars.A.J. Bouye (Vertical)

Despite ranking 29th in DVOA against the pass in 2016, the Saints haven’t yet added a corner in free agency, but given that the club targeted Bouye (and Marcus Cooper) last week, it’s clear New Oreans is attempting to augment its secondary. The Saints haven’t given up on bringing in new defensive back talent, as the team is currently engaged in discussions with Patriots restricted free agent corner Malcolm Butler.

While the Saints have been active this offseason by signing Nick Fairley, Larry Warford, Ted Ginn, A.J. Klein, and others, Bouye would have been a much more significant addition, as the former Texans cornerback landed $67.5MM and $26MM guaranteed from Jacksonville. New Orleans was reportedly interested in the top available corner in 2016, as well, as the club targeted Josh Norman after his franchise tag was rescinded.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Contract Details: Bennett, Bouye, Branch

Let’s take a look at the details of some recently-signed free agent contracts:

  • Martellus Bennett, TE (Packers): Three years, $20.25MM. $6.3MM guaranteed. Base salaries of $900K, $3.6MM, $5.65MM. $2MM roster bonus due on first day of 2018 league year. $600K in annual per-game roster bonuses. $$250K annual workout bonus (link via Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk).
  • A.J. Bouye, CB (Jaguars): Five years, $65MM. $26MM guaranteed. $10MM signing bonus. Base salaries of $3MM, $13MM, $13MM, $13MM, $13MM. $500K annual workout bonus (Twitter link via Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle).
  • Alan Branch, DT (Patriots): Two years, $8.45MM. $3MM guaranteed. $2MM signing bonus. Annual $400K workout and weight bonus of $400K each. $3.55MM available via not-likely-to-be-earned incentives (link via Mike Reiss of ESPN.com).
  • Ted Ginn, WR (Saints): Three years, $11MM. $3MM guaranteed. $3MM signing bonus. Base salaries of $2MM, $3MM, $2.5MM. 2018 $500K roster bonus. $500,000 aviailve vie playtime, catches incentives (Twitter link via Wilson).
  • Tanner Purdum, LS (Jets): One year, $980K. $400K guaranteed (Twitter link via Dennis Waszak Jr. of the Associated Press).
  • Brandon Williams, DT (Ravens): Five years, $52.5MM. $27.5MM guaranteed. $12.5MM signing bonus (Twitter link via Jeff Zriebec of the Baltimore Sun).
  • Blidi Wreh-Wilson, CB (Falcons): One year, $775K (minimum salary) (Twitter link via Wilson).

A.J. Bouye, Alshon Jeffery Didn’t Consider Signing With Bears

The Bears will emerge from the opening of free agency having added Mike Glennon, Dion Sims, Markus Wheaton and Will Demps, but Thursday didn’t go according to plan for the franchise, writes Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune.

A.J. Bouye (vertical)

Chicago attempted to use its boatload of cap space to sign more established players, including top cornerback Stephon Gilmore and A.J. Bouye and wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, but the team swung and missed on all counts. While the Bears looked like the favorites to ink Gilmore as recently as Tuesday, he instead joined the Patriots on a mega-deal. Meanwhile, prior to landing his own enormous payday with the Jaguars, Bouye didn’t even give the Bears serious consideration, a source told Biggs.

Like Bouye, Jeffery had no interest in signing with the Bears, multiple sources informed Biggs. He ultimately took a one-year, $14MM offer from the Eagles to leave Chicago, where he spent the first five seasons of his career and emerged as one of the NFL’s top pass catchers.

Should the Bears could continue scouring the open market for potential solutions at either position, some appealing options remain in a dwindling class of free agents. Logan Ryan, Prince Amukamara and Morris Claiborne are among the league’s still-unsigned corners, while Terrelle Pryor is the best wideout without a contract. It’s unclear, though, whether the Bears are interested in any of those players.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Jaguars To Sign A.J. Bouye

The Jaguars and cornerback A.J. Bouye are have reached agreement on a contract, per Ian Rapoport and James Palmer of NFL.com (Twitter link). Prior to the deal, Bouye was still deciding between the Jaguars, Titans, and Bears, according to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle reports (Twitter link). The agreement was finalized on Thursday after the official start of free agency, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets.

Schefter tweets that the deal is for five years and $67.5MM, with $26MM guaranteed. That means the cornerback will be making around $13.5MM annually. Rapoport adds that Bouye will be receiving $44MM over the first three years of the contract.

A.J. Bouye

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 Top 50 Free Agents, Bouye ranked first overall.

One of the more intrguing free agents in recent memory thanks to his lack of experience, Bouye generated quite a market during the legal tampering period. The Colts, Titans, Bears, Buccaneers, Jets, and Eagles were all thought to be interested in the 25-year-old Bouye, who is expected to command north of $12MM annually. The Texans also wanted to retain Bouye, but Houston couldn’t keep up with the other offers flowing Bouye’s way.

The Jaguars are no strangers to defensive spending in free agency. In 2016, Jacksonville added Malik Jackson and Tashaun Gipson on top-of-the-market deals, and this offseason the club has already inked Barry Church and is in the running for Calais Campbell, though the latter is now deciding between the Jaguars and Broncos.

Jacksonville’s pass defense ranked 12th in DVOA last year, a ranking that only figures to improve following the addition of Bouye, who will team with 2016 first-round pick Jalen Ramsey to form a lethal (and youthful) cornerback duo.

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A.J. Bouye To Leave Texans

The A.J. Bouye pursuit looks like it will end up being too rich for the Texans to handle, as Bouye has informed Houston he’ll be signing elsewhere, tweets Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle. Adam Schefter of ESPN.com reported earlier today (on Twitter) the coveted fifth-year cornerback would likely end up leaving Houston and signing elsewhere once free agency opens. A.J. Bouye (Vertical)

This may not mean the Texans won’t be seeing this former UDFA gem often. Each of the Texans’ AFC South brethren are in on Bouye — PFR’s No. 1 UFA — and each has far more cap space than the two-time defending division champions. The Texans come into free agency’s opening with $22MM-plus. That’s at least $25MM less than each of their division rivals.

Bouye broke out in a staggering way last season, becoming Pro Football Focus’ No. 3 overall cornerback after a previously nondescript career. The Texans offered Bouye a multiyear deal before 2016, but he opted to bet on himself and managed to reach free agency on the heels of one of the more notable contract years in recent memory. Houston, though, has made a commitment to its cornerback spot, having Johnathan Joseph and Kareem Jackson on veteran contracts and having drafted Kevin Johnson in the first round.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Jaguars In On A.J. Bouye, Barry Church

Holy moly, Jacksonville is not playing around this offseason. The Jaguars appear in the mix for some of this year’s best unrestricted free agents, including cornerback A.J. Bouye, guard Kevin Zeitler, defensive lineman Calais Campbell, and safety Barry Church, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. Their interest in Campbell and Zeitler was reported earlier this week.A.J. Bouye (Vertical)

Bouye is ranked as my No. 1 free agent this offseason based on earning power and the rest of the guys in this group are not far behind. Zeitler (No 5 on the list), Campbell (No. 9), and Church (No. 34) would all cost the Jaguars a pretty penny. Of course, there is no realistic scenario that has Jacksonville signing all four players, but their interest in this bunch is noteworthy. Armed with upwards of $75MM in cap space, the Jags could certainly come away with one or two high-end free agents.

When free agency opens on Thursday, Zeitler could set a new guard standard at $12MM per year. Bouye’s market is also looking like it will yield a $12MM+ per year contract, even though he only has one strong year on his resume. Church already has a number of teams interested in him and should get more than $5MM per season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Bouye, Landry, Marshall, Mixon

A.J. Bouye‘s staggering rise from unknown RFA to one of the most coveted UFAs on this year’s market did not come completely unbeknownst to the Texans. Houston offered its undrafted gem a multiyear contract in 2016 at a “significant raise,” but Bouye opted to bet on himself, Peter King of TheMMQB.com reports. Bouye signed the low-end RFA tender last March, worth $1.67MM, setting up his dominant breakout campaign. His market is set to be north of $12MM per year as Day 2 of the legal tampering period gets underway, and while the Texans are in on it, they could lose him to a division rival.

Here’s more from around the league with free agency barely a day away.

  • The Dolphins have received trade inquiries on wide receiver Jarvis Landry, Armando Salguero of The Miami Herald writes. However, the team has no real interest in trading him. Late in their 2016 season, the Dolphins were working on an extension plan for their slot target, so it’s a good bet the team’s most consistent weapon stays in Miami. The two-time Pro Bowl wideout has posted back-to-back 1,100-yard seasons, doing so in two different schemes.
  • The prospect of staying in New York would on the surface allow Brandon Marshall to continue being a rare in-season media regular, but Judy Battista of NFL.com notes (on Twitter) the Giants and Jets’ schedules aren’t structured equally. Inside the NFL tapes on Tuesdays, when many teams give their players off days, but Battista points out the Giants work on Tuesdays. This might not be a deal-breaker, though, with Marshall having established himself on the long-running weekly show the past two years and signing with the only other team that would keep him in the city.
  • Between Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon is set to meet with 24 teams in total as a part of his pro day gauntlet, Albert Breer of The MMQB tweets. Mixon met with the Bengals, Browns, Lions and Saints on Tuesday night, per Aditi Kinkhabwala of NFL.com (via Twitter), in advance of what will be a critical showcase for the controversial running back.
  • Chiefs tight end Demetrius Harris was arrested for felony possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia, Terez A. Paylor of the Kansas City Star tweets. A converted basketball player, Harris saw his role increase last season. The third-year pass-catcher saw 476 snaps and caught 17 passes for 123 yards and a touchdown, but Pro Football Focus graded him as its worst full-time tight end.
  • Chris Banjo‘s two-year deal with the Saints will pay him $2.6MM with another $500K available through incentives, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets.

Sam Robinson contributed to this report.

PFR’s Top 50 NFL Free Agents

It’s free agency week! This year, thanks to the salary cap increase, the dollars will be flying and players will make more than you ever could have expected. Our lists for offense and defense rank free agents based on overall ability, but our Top 50 ranks players based on earning power. Here, you’ll get a good sense of what the market will be like this week and who the big fish are.

The league’s “legal tampering” window will open on Tuesday at 11:00am CT. Technically, teams and players aren’t permitted to finalize agreements on contracts during that legal tampering window, but that’s often treated as a guideline rather than a hard and fast rule. We will almost certainly see handshake agreements go down on Tuesday and Wednesday before they become official on Thursday, the technical beginning of free agency.

Our list of 2017’s top 50 free agents doesn’t include restricted free agents, or franchise tagged players, since they’re effectively restricted free agents as well.

With those caveats out of the way, let’s dive right in! Here are Pro Football Rumors’ top 50 NFL free agents for 2017, along with a few predictions on how much they might earn and what teams could be in the mix to sign them:

1. A.J. Bouye, CB (Texans): Bouye is an overnight sensation, going from unknown to elite talent in the blink of an eye. No one knows exactly what to make of Bouye, but his upside is too much for teams to pass up. The Texans declined to use the franchise tag on the 25-year-old (26 in August), but they’re still hoping to get a deal done this week. The Jets are said to have interest, but it’s not clear if they’ll have the room to get something done. Cornerback-needy teams like the Panthers, Saints, Jaguars, Titans, Bears, and Eagles can be expected to at least kick the tires on this year’s top player in the secondary. Could something like Janoris Jenkins‘ five year, $62.5MM contract ($28.8MM fully guaranteed) from last year be within reach? Jenkins had a longer history of success than Bouye, but consider these facts: Bouye nearly two years younger than Jenkins was at time of signing and the salary cap has risen by about $12MM.
Signed with Jaguars for five years, $67.5MM.A.J. Bouye (vertical)

2. Alshon Jeffery, WR (Bears): He was hurt for most of 2015 and he slumped along with the entire Bears offense in 2016, but his natural ability is still evident and he is a legitimate No. 1 wide receiver. At one point, it seemed like Jeffery could wind up as the league’s highest-paid wide receiver. That won’t be the case, but he will likely get more cash than any other wide receiver in this year’s class. The Eagles and Titans have been hot on his tail for some time now. The 49ers could also get involved and a return to the Bears cannot be ruled out either. Ultimately, Jeffery should wind up fetching at least $10MM per year and perhaps as much as $12MM per year on his next deal.
Signed with Eagles for one year, $9.5MM.

3. Kenny Stills, WR (Dolphins): Jeffery isn’t the only wide receiver who could fetch $12MM per year. Stills isn’t necessarily the best wide receiver on his own team, but he is just on the cusp of his 25th birthday and his ability to stretch the field is tantalizing. It doesn’t sound like the Dolphins are ready to be the highest bidder for his services and it’s not hard to imagine a team like the Eagles landing him. Naturally, there’s quite a bit of overlap between the potential suitors for Jeffery and Stills: the Eagles, Titans, Bears, and 49ers will probably come calling. The Rams may not have enough room to squeeze in Stills, but they could certainly use a playmaker like him if they do not re-sign Kenny Britt. Stills reportedly likes the West Coast (who doesn’t?) so the Niners and Rams could have a leg up on the others if the bidding is close.
Re-signed with Dolphins for four years, $32MM.

4. Dont’a Hightower, LB (Patriots): The market is capped for non-rush linebackers, but Hightower is pretty much the best at what he does and is also lauded for his intangibles. The Patriots have always embraced the “next man up” philosophy, so it is possible they will allow him to go elsewhere. The Dolphins have been frequently connected to Hightower, but that might be too ambitious for a team that has multiple major needs to address. The Colts might also make sense, but the price might be too rich for their blood. A Patriots return appears to be the most likely outcome, but anything is possible.
Re-signed with Patriots for four years, $35.5MM. 

5. Kevin Zeitler, G (Bengals): Zeitler has age on his side and he’s one of the safest free agents in the top ten after three consecutive years of dominance. Interior offensive linemen don’t get as much love as their counterparts on the outside, but they are still incredibly vital and Zeitler’s next contract will reflect that. If he doesn’t circle back to the Bengals, the Jaguars, Cardinals, Packers, and Seahawks all make varying degrees of sense for Zeitler. From a football standpoint, you can add the Jets to that group too, but I’m not sure they can meet a ~$12MM/year asking price.
Signed with Browns for five years, $60MM.

6. Logan Ryan, CB (Patriots): There are bigger names available at the cornerback position, but Ryan slots ahead of many of them after a career year. It also doesn’t hurt that this fresh-faced Super Bowl champ only just turned 26 in February. If the Patriots don’t tie him down, Ryan’s earning power could conceivably vault him past Trumaine Johnson in terms of guaranteed cash. The Jaguars and Titans would be wise to zero in on Ryan if they can’t land Bouye and it’s possible that some of their evaluators might even prefer Ryan over the Houston standout. Ryan’s next deal will probably pay him eight figures per year and it should be a lengthy pact.
Signed with Titans for three years, $30MM.

7. Terrelle Pryor, WR (Browns): There is strong mutual interest in a new deal between Pryor and the Browns. Still, the Browns passed on the opportunity to franchise tag the Ohio State product and he now appears poised to test the open market. With pretty much just one year to show, how will Pryor fare in free agency? His next deal should pay him at least $10MM/year and he could get up to $12MM/year. In addition to the Browns, the usual suspects for this year’s high-end WRs will explore signing Pryor (say it with me): Eagles, Titans, and 49ers. There’s conflicting word about whether the Steelers will get involved. The Giants are known to have interest, but I don’t think they’ll be splurging on free agents like they did one year ago.
Signed with Redskins for one year, $6MM.

8 .Ricky Wagner, OT (Ravens): There’s already talk of Wagner fetching around $10MM/year and it’s not like this year’s free agent market is flush with young, quality tackles. When you also consider the lack of quality tackles in the draft, it’s apparent that Wagner is about to get PAID, in all caps.Believe it or not, $10MM/year might be his floor. When all is said and done, he’ll be the league’s biggest earner at right tackle. The Bears are particularly interested in Wagner, so he could go from the AFC North to the NFC North this week.
Signed with Lions for five years, $47.5MM.

Calais Campbell (vertical)9. Calais Campbell, DL (Cardinals): Campbell was supposed to be an afterthought in Arizona after the addition of Chandler Jones. Perhaps motivated by a perceived slight, Campbell turned in a stellar year. Now, the Cardinals would very much like to keep him, but they can only go so far as they back up the Brinks truck for Jones and look into retaining other key free agents. If Jones does not agree to a cap-smoothing long-term deal between now and March 9th, the odds of Campbell leaving increase. The Jaguars are said to be a leading contender for Campbell while the Titans, Broncos, Colts, and Bears could also use a force like him. His age (31 in September) gives him a bit of a ceiling in terms of overall compensation, but he should still do nicely this month.
Signed with Jaguars for four years, $60MM.

10. Stephon Gilmore, CB (Bills): In terms of pure talent, Gilmore might be the best cornerback available. Trouble is, no one knows what to make of him after a down 2016. Some have openly theorized that Gilmore was playing it safe to avoid injury in his pivotal contract year. It’s also possible that Buffalo’s injuries in the front seven put undue stress on the secondary. The Bears are reportedly high on Gilmore and he may represent a cheaper option than Bouye or Ryan. A Bills return would also make sense here.
Signed with Patriots for five years, $65MM.

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Latest On Market For A.J. Bouye

We figured that cornerback A.J. Bouye would be one of the most sought-after free agents, and that sentiment has certainly been confirmed today. ESPN.com’s Michael DiRocco reports (via Twitter) that the Jaguars, Bears, Buccaneers, and Titans have been linked to the defensive back.

The Jets and Eagles were among the teams previously mentioned as potential landing spots, and the Texans are also reportedly interested in re-signing him. Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle clarifies (via Twitter) that the Eagles will indeed have interest in Bouye, but they’re not expected to “emerge as a serious player” for his services. Wilson also adds the 49ers, Browns, and Colts as teams that are expected to be “extremely competitive” when it comes to signing Bouye. Considering that long list of suitors, Wilson says there’s a good chance Bouye sticks around the AFC South.

Meanwhile, Wilson tweets that all of the offers for Bouye have averaged at least $12MM annually.

A.J. BouyeThe 2013 undrafted free agent played sparingly during his rookie season, but he established himself as one of the team’s most reliable corners over the past three seasons. Bouye arguably had his best season in 2016, compiling 63 tackles, one sack, and one interception.

Among the teams listed above, Bouye would seemingly be able to slide into every starting lineup. Brice McCain (Titans), Aaron Colvin (Jaguars), Brent Grimes (Buccaneers) are among the defensive backs who could be pushed out of the lineup if their respective teams sign Bouye.

PFR listed Bouye above Logan Ryan as the best available free agent cornerback. Meanwhile, our own Zach Links anticipates that the 25-year-old will be the highest-earning free agent this offseason.

Eagles Pursuing CB A.J. Bouye

The Eagles are expected to have some money to spend once they drop a few pricey veterans and they are already keying in one of this year’s biggest free agents. The Eagles have interest in Houston cornerback A.J. Bouye, a person familiar with the situation tells Eliot Shorr-Parks of NJ.com. The two sides made contact on Tuesday, the first day of the legal tampering period. "<strong

My updated list of this year’s Top 50 Free Agents has Bouye in the No. 1 spot due to his earning potential. I listed the Eagles as a logical landing spot for him as they look to retool their secondary. The Eagles have parted ways with starter Leodis McKelvin and Nolan Carroll could go elsewhere this month. Bouye would represent a major upgrade to Philly’s defense.

Janoris Jenkins‘ deal from last year has been mentioned as a comp for Bouye. He inked a five-year, $62.5MM contract with the Giants which included a staggering $28.8MM fully guaranteed. Bouye is younger than Jenkins was at the time of signing and the cap is higher than last year, so it’s entirely possible he could match.

The former undrafted free agent had arguably his best season in 2016. The 25-year-old finished the campaign with career-highs in tackles (63) and passes defended (16) while also collecting one sack and one interception. Bouye has only missed four games over the past three seasons.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.