A.J. Bouye

Panthers Release A.J. Bouye

The Panthers have released cornerback A.J. Bouye, per an official club announcement. This comes on the heels of defensive lineman Morgan Fox‘s release, which has also been confirmed by the team.

Bouye had a couple of really solid years with the Texans, grading out as one of the league’s best CBs. He parlayed into a five-year, $67.5MM deal from the Jaguars in 2017 and things went well initially. In his first Jags season, he was a second-team All-Pro with six interceptions. Then, his play slipped year by year — he had just one interception in each of the next two seasons, enabling the Broncos to acquire him in 2020 for nothing more than a fourth-round pick.

Once the Broncos cut in February 2021, the Panthers picked him up for cheap. Now, he’s out of the picture in Carolina as the Panthers look to remodel their defense. The 30-year-old (31 in August) could still be a worthwhile veteran pickup for a team in need, though the ceiling is much lower than it was just a few years ago. The Panthers, meanwhile, will save a good chunk of change as they cancel the rest of his two-year, $7MM pact.

Due to injuries, Bouye was limited to just ten games and seven starts last year. He finished his lone Panthers season with 28 tackles, three passes defensed, and one forced fumble.

Minor NFL Transactions:  12/21/21

Today’s minor moves:

Arizona Cardinals

Atlanta Falcons

Carolina Panthers

Chicago Bears

Cincinnati Bengals

Cleveland Browns

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Houston Texans

Jacksonville Jaguars

Los Angeles Rams

Minnesota Vikings

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Philadelphia Eagles

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Seattle Seahawk

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Washington Football Team

Surgery For Panthers’ Jaycee Horn?

The Panthers could be without Jaycee Horn for a while. The early word is that the cornerback has multiple broken bones in his foot, which would require surgery and two to three months of recovery (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport).

Horn broke three bones in his foot, Matt Rhule said Friday, and the rookie and his family will determine his plans from here. Surgery is certainly on the table. It could well mean Horn’s initial NFL season will end after three games. 

[RELATED: Panthers’ CMC Suffers Hamstring Injury]

A late-season return represents Horn’s best-case scenario. Horn went down on a non-contact play Thursday night and had to be carted off. He was unable to put weight on his leg, an immediate sign of something serious. Meanwhile, the Panthers also saw star running back Christian McCaffrey and safety Juston Burris exit early.

Horn, the first cornerback drafted this year, finished his Ohio State run with two interceptions and six passes defended in just seven games. Through his first two pro games, the No. 8 overall pick has three tackles and one interception to his credit.

He’ll likely land on the injured reserve list, elevating veteran Rashaan Melvin to a larger role. Carolina, however, is likely to have A.J. Bouye in action soon. After missing two games due to a PED suspension, Bouye missed Thursday’s game with an undisclosed injury. Rhule expects Bouye to be ready for Week 4, Joe Person of The Athletic tweets.

Teams Calling Broncos On Cornerbacks

The Broncos exited last season with no proven cornerbacks available, with Bryce Callahan injured and A.J. Bouye suspended. Teams have now observed Denver may have a surplus at this position.

Teams have called the Broncos about their depth, with Mike Klis of 9News noting some are eyeing Denver’s corner group. The Broncos cut Bouye but retained Callahan. They then added Ronald Darby and Kyle Fuller in free agency and drafted Patrick Surtain II ninth overall, passing on Justin Fields and Mac Jones to do so.

We’re fortunate we have a player in Surtain that can play multiple positions at a young age,” first-year GM George Paton said, via Klis. “Not many rookies can play three positions. It’s a really good problem to have. It’s Vic [Fangio‘s] problem, but you can’t have enough of those guys. Corners, a lot of them go down so we’re really happy with our depth. We have a lot of teams calling us on our depth. But we like our corners, that’s for sure.”

Denver has an interesting mix of midlevel contracts — Callahan, Darby and Fuller are each signed to deals averaging between $7-$10MM per year — at corner, along with Surtain’s rookie-deal salary. The Broncos also used a third-round pick on Michael Ojemudia last year. Nickel sets generally call for three cornerbacks, potentially leaving teams wondering if the Broncos are open to moving one of their vets, though dime sets and others in which the team’s top four corners play together are likely in Fangio’s plans.

The Broncos are using Surtain at multiple spots, and Callahan and Darby bring injury pasts creating a need for depth. Callahan ended the 2018 and 2020 seasons on IR and missed all of the 2019 season. Darby was sidelined for 20 games from 2017-19. Denver’s depth may be limited to just 2021, with Callahan and Fuller on one-year deals, but it will nonetheless be interesting to see how the Broncos proceed at this spot.

DB Rumors: Mills, Panthers, Seahawks, Colts

The Eagles moved Jalen Mills from cornerback to safety ahead of the 2020 offseason, when they re-signed him to a one-year contract. Mills began his first Patriots offseason at safety, but his new team has shuttled him back to his old job. Devin McCourty and Adrian Phillips‘ early OTAs absences prompted the Pats to use Mills alongside Kyle Dugger at safety. But he spent the team’s final week of OTAs back at corner, Mike Reiss of ESPN.com notes. With Stephon Gilmore holding out, Mills played opposite J.C. Jackson at corner Monday, per Jeff Howe of The Athletic (subscription required). Thirty-four of Mills’ 49 NFL starts have come at corner, including 15 in the Eagles’ 2017 Super Bowl-winning season. Gilmore and the Pats are not believed to be close on an extension, clouding his future with the team and complicating New England’s cornerback outlook.

Here are some additional updates from NFL secondaries:

  • A.J. Bouye broke out as an outside corner with the Texans and made the Pro Bowl as a boundary defender with the Jaguars. The Broncos used Bouye on the outside as well last season. The Panthers have a different plan. Carolina DC Phil Snow told Bouye the team needs him in the slot, Joe Person of The Athletic notes (subscription required). After signing Bouye to a two-year, $7MM deal, the Panthers picked Jaycee Horn eighth overall. Horn and Donte Jackson are on track to be Carolina’s outside corners this season.
  • Panthers safety Jeremy Chinn underwent surgery for an injury that has bothered him since college. The second-year defender had what Matt Rhule described as a minor knee operation this offseason, but Carolina’s HC said the injury Chinn dealt with in 2020 had bothered him dating back to his Southern Illinois days (Twitter links via Person). Despite the injury, Chinn proved to be one of the NFL’s top rookies last season.
  • Richard Sherman surfaced on the Seahawks‘ radar recently, but he is taking his time on deciding his next team. The three-year 49ers corner did advise ex-teammate Ahkello Witherspoon to move to Seattle, however. The former Legion of Boom member told Witherspoon he would fit in well with the Seahawks, Michael-Shawn Dugar of The Athletic notes. Witherspoon signed a one-year, $4MM contract with the Seahawks in March. A third-round 49ers pick in 2017, Witherspoon made a 30 visit to Seattle ahead of the draft four years ago.
  • The Cowboys did not use Reggie Robinson on defense in his rookie season, but they moved the 2020 fourth-round pick from cornerback to safety during training camp last year. While that change did not end up mattering during regular-season games, Robinson is now back at corner, Jon Machota of The Athletic notes.
  • Marvell Tell opted out of the 2020 season, but the former fifth-round pick is back at work with the Colts. Tell has joined the run of secondary position changes this offseason; the Colts have moved him from safety to corner, Stephen Holder of The Athletic writes. As a safety in 2019, Tell played 252 snaps and started one game. The Colts have crowded their cornerback contingent this offseason, re-signing both Xavier Rhodes and T.J. Carrie. Both veterans are on one-year contracts. Tell’s rookie deal tolled from the COVID-19 opt-out; he is under contract through 2023.

Malcolm Butler, A.J. Bouye Expressed Interest In Joining Cowboys

As the draft approaches, cornerback continues to be a need area for the Cowboys. While they re-signed Jourdan Lewis this offseason, the Cowboys received interest from multiple veterans with more experience.

Both Malcolm Butler and A.J. Bouye expressed an interest in joining the Cowboys, Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram notes, and each third-contract-seeking vet was willing to take a discount to do so. However, Dallas was not open to that prospect — even at lower rates than the corners ended up signing for — and moved on, Hill adds.

The Titans and Broncos, respectively, made Butler and Bouye cap casualties this offseason. Butler ended up signing a one-year, $3.25MM deal with the Cardinals. Bouye joined the Panthers late last week, agreeing to a two-year, $7MM pact. Butler’s contract is fully guaranteed, while Bouye will receive $3.5MM fully guaranteed. That will tie him to the Panthers for the 2021 season. These third contracts represent steep downgrades. Butler, 31, signed a five-year, $61.25MM deal with the Titans in 2018; Bouye, 29, landed with the Jaguars on a five-year, $67.5MM deal in 2017. They joined many free agents in taking major discounts this offseason, which featured a near-$20MM salary cap reduction.

The Cowboys communicated to both defenders they did not have the money to sign them, Hill notes. The team has added a host of free agents, but they have largely been on low-end contracts. As of Monday, Dallas holds just less than $8MM in cap space. Much of that will go to signing draft picks.

Dallas drafted Trevon Diggs in last year’s second round and used a fourth-round pick on Reggie Robinson. Slot corner Anthony Brown is signed through the 2022 season. Lewis re-signed a three-year, $13.5MM deal; only $4.75MM of that is fully guaranteed. Despite these investments, the Cowboys are expected to add a corner early in the draft, Hill adds, perhaps with the No. 10 overall pick.

Details On A.J. Bouye’s Panthers Deal

At this point, A.J. Bouye is best known for signing an ill-fated five-year, $67.5MM deal with the Jaguars back in 2017. When the Panthers picked him up earlier this month, it cost them a whole lot less. Bouye’s two-year deal is worth just $7MM, according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport (Twitter link).

[RELATED: Broncos Expressed Interest In Sam Darnold]

Bouye, 30 in August, profiles as low-risk, high reward signing for the Panthers. He didn’t find much of a market this year after suffering a dislocated shoulder to start 2020. Bouye returned to action for the Broncos and started in seven games, but a six-game PED suspension in December brought his season to an end. He still has two games to go on that ban, so the Panthers won’t see him in live action until Week 3.

The Raiders were the only other known suitor for Bouye, which allowed the Panthers to get him on an affordable contract. In Carolina, he’ll support a young group headlined by Donte Jackson and Troy Pride Jr.

In other Panthers news, we recently learned that the Broncos were in on Sam Darnold before he landed in Carolina. Meanwhile, ex-starter Teddy Bridgewater has been given permission to seek trades.

Panthers To Sign A.J. Bouye

The Panthers’ recent trade for quarterback Sam Darnold certainly rates as one of the biggest splashes of the offseason, and now the team has turned its attention back to the defensive side of the ball. As Joe Person of The Athletic reports (via Twitter), Carolina has agreed to terms with free agent corner A.J. Bouye. Mike Klis of 9News.com first reported that the two sides were nearing a deal (Twitter link).

The Panthers were a middle-of-the-road outfit in terms of total defense in 2020, and this offseason, new GM Scott Fitterer has brought in Haason Reddick and Morgan Fox to reinforce the pass rush and Denzel Perryman to anchor the middle of the LB corps. Fitterer also inked cornerback Rashaan Melvin to a modest one-year pact, but Bouye is a superior talent if he can himself back on track.

A former UDFA, Bouye became a strong, starting-caliber CB in Houston and parlayed that success into a five-year, $67.5MM contract with the Jaguars in March 2017. He earned his first and only Pro Bowl nod following the 2017 season, a campaign in which he teamed with Jalen Ramsey to form a fearsome cornerback tandem. He picked off six passes that year — which nearly culminated in a Super Bowl appearance — but Jacksonville slipped in the subsequent seasons and elected to trade Bouye to the Broncos last March as part of its rebuilding efforts.

He suffered a dislocated shoulder in Week 1 of the 2020 season and landed on IR, and though he ended up playing in (and starting) seven games, he was hit with a six-game PED suspension in December. He will miss the first two games of 2021 as a result of the ban, and Denver released him earlier this year.

Still, the 29-year-old (30 in August) would be a high-ceiling veteran addition to a CB group currently fronted by youngsters Donte Jackson and Troy Pride Jr. Other than the Panthers, the only team that had reportedly expressed interest in Bouye following his release was the Raiders.

Raiders Host Ha Ha Clinton-Dix On Visit

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix did not play last season; the Cowboys released him prior to Week 1. But the former first-round pick has drawn some interest this offseason.

The Raiders are hosting the veteran safety Friday, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. This comes shortly after they hosted cornerback A.J. Bouye, whom The Athletic’s Vic Tafur notes left Las Vegas without a contract agreement (Twitter link).

Prior to Clinton-Dix’s Cowboys agreement, he played for the Packers, Washington and the Bears. He has never missed a game due to injury and has started every game in which he has played since taking over as a Green Bay starter as a rookie in 2014. Clinton-Dix made the Pro Bowl in 2016 and graded as Pro Football Focus’ No. 19 overall safety in 2019.

Las Vegas has Johnathan Abram and ex-Cowboy Jeff Heath returning at safety, with Erik Harris on track for free agency. Despite Clinton-Dix’s extensive experience, he will only be 28 this coming season. Considering his 2020 absence, the former Alabama star would certainly be available at a low-cost rate.

Broncos Release A.J. Bouye

We’ve got one of our first big cuts of the young offseason. The Broncos are releasing cornerback A.J. Bouye, a source told Mike Klis of Denver 9 News (Twitter link).

It ends an unceremonious run in Denver for Bouye, after the Broncos traded a fourth-round pick for him last March. Injuries limited him to only seven games this past season, all of which were starts. The move means the team will save the non-guaranteed $11.7MM he was owed for this upcoming season, and new GM George Paton clearly wasn’t about to pay his excessive salary. An UDFA back in 2013, Bouye had a couple of really solid years with the Texans which he parlayed into a five-year, $67.5MM deal from the Jaguars in March of 2017.

Things went well initially, as he was a second-team All-Pro and had six interceptions in his first year in Jacksonville. Things went south quickly after that (as they did for that entire Jags defense), and he had only one interception in each of the next two seasons.

In addition to the injuries, Bouye was also hit with a six-game PED suspension back in December. He’ll still be sidelined for the first two games of the 2021 season, which could complicate things when looking for his next contract this spring. That being said he’s still only 29, and there should be significant interest in the established starter.