A.J. Bouye is an unrestricted free agent. He's 25. He finally got the chance to play every down thanks to injuries in the secondary, and he had a great season.
If you are Rick Smith, what would you do with A.J Bouye? Would you franchise him, let him walk, or sign him to a long-term deal?
What do you think actually happens in this simulation we call reality?
This is what the BRB staff gnawed on for this week’s group question.
I spilled my blood on the page yesterday and don’t have much more to say. So read that if you want some moving images. If you don’t, here is the TL:DR I didn’t have the time version:
Houston should not sign A.J. Bouye to a long-term deal. He’s had one great year. That’s it. Remember Brice McCain? He had one good season and spent the rest of his career ranging from bad to barely scraping mediocre. In sportz there are hundreds examples of a player having one incredible season and never sniffing it again. So Houston should pay the $14 million for one season and franchise Bouye. If Bouye was just a one-year wonder, the Texans can move on without him rotting on the roster sheet. If he wasn’t, they can sign him to a fair deal at age 26, and they’ll have more cap flexibility with Brock Osweiler going bye-bye.
The Texans should keep Bouye, too. He was incredible last year. It is possible for this to be an all-time great defense in 2017, like Denver 2015, or Seattle 2013 good, if they re-sign Bouye and J.J. Watt is still J.J. Watt. A secondary consisting of Bouye, Johnathan Joseph, Kevin Johnson, Kareem Jackson, Andre Hal, and whoever at the other safety spot is the best in the league except for maybe Denver. When you combine that with Watt, Jadeveon Clowney, Whitney Mercilus, and some creative inside blitzes, you are going to have at least a top five pass defense. Plus, with Watt, the Texans’ average run defense will improve by default.
The franchise tag keeps the secondary together, and it doesn’t have the risk that a long-term deal does. This is what I think Houston should do.
However, I think Bouye ends up going somewhere else. Twitter has told me Houston isn’t going to franchise him. Unless Bouye is signed before hitting the open market, Houston has no chance of re-signing him. He’s a scheme neutral player, and there are almost ten teams that need secondary help that have more cap space than the Texans. Bouye was an undrafted free agent who hasn’t made much. He’s going to want to maximize this contract. All of those teams can outbid Houston, and they will.
I think Bouye agrees to a four year, $40-44 million type of deal with the Texans or he takes more to go elsewhere.
As to whether or not I'd do the deal, I'd do it with a few caveats. Get rid of Johnathan Joseph and draft another corner from this super-stacked class as a way to keep depth and save money. The worst thing that can happen in this situation is Bouye turns out to be a one-year wonder and the Texans are stuck with a large cap hit. But if he does stink it up, the Texans must have long-term options at the position to sub in.
I would absolutely sign Bouye to a long term deal. Kevin Johnson and Bouye are the future of this team at cornerback, and I think with Kareem Jackson clearly struggling last season, it is time to think about moving him to safety while the young guns take over at corner.
If Rick Smith lets Bouye walk, that means the Texans will have only one reliable young CB left on the roster. This is not a position that you want your football team to be in. The more competitive corners you can put on the field, the better.
Absolutely re-sign him.
Deal J-Jo, move K-Jax to safety, and try to grab another young DB in the third or fourth round of the 2017 NFL Draft.
I shudder at the thought of watching Bouye leave and go all Nnamdi Asomugha somewhere else.
What I'd like to see happen: Bouye signs a long-term deal.
It would shore up the secondary for a good long time, even though it would effectively end the Texans' pursuit (assuming they either planned to pursue him or assuming he hits free agency) of Tony Romo because big contracts for Bouye, Brock Osweiler, AND Romo would be a really heavy lift for the Texans, one that I don't think they can or will attempt.
What I expect to happen: Bouye walks because the Texans aren't expected to give him the franchise tag (although things can change between now and the start of free agency), and they believe (hypothetically) that they'll need the money they save from Bouye to re-sign their other free agents, or because they've found the quarterback equivalent of Jeff Allen to save a few million dollars or something.
What I’d like to see happen: This is a tough one. I’m not entirely convinced Bouye is going to continue to ascend and become a great corner for several years to come. This draft is apparently pretty deep at corner, but I can’t say I don’t want him to stay. I do, I just also know there’s NO chance of him taking less to stay (and of course he shouldn’t).
So what I’d like to see is the Texans sign Bouye to a long-term deal, but ultimately I think he ends up elsewhere.
My prediction - Tennessee (sadness).