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Red Zone Play: Should Houston Bring Back A.J. Bouye?

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Time to come home, Bouye.

Houston Texans Vs New England Patriots Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images

The Jacksonville Jaguars are pressed up against the salary cap and are now just under the cap after declining Marcell Dareus’ option. They still have more cutting to do this offseason. Part of that might very well include releasing stalwart cornerback and former Texan A.J. Bouye. If they keep him, the Jaguars are on the hook for $15,437,500.00, which is an awful lot to sink into one cornerback not named Deion Sanders. Should they release Bouye, they reduce the burden to $4 million in dead money. Seems like a no-brainer.

While Jacksonville might look to trade him, no team in their right mind will take on a $15 million contract for a cornerback in a year with several solid cornerbacks available on the market.

In 2016, A.J. Bouye lit the Texans’ defense on fire with a breakout season. Houston general manager Rick Smith rewarded Bouye with unrestricted free agency, which promptly led the prodigal son to division rivalJacksonville and a partnership with All-Pro corner Jalen Ramsey. Despite Ramsey and Deshaun Watson campaigning for Ramsey to land in H-Town last season, Ramsey was traded to the St. Louis Los Angeles Rams.

Back to Bouye...the narrative when Bouye left town was that Smith allowed it to happen and poor Bill O’Brien was victimized by a bad decision that hurt his roster. Despite having plenty of cap space and the ability to franchise tag A.J. Bouye, Smith let Bouye walk out the door. To a division rival, no less.

Now, general manager William O’Brien might have a chance to right that wrong.

With so many veteran corners about to hit the market, Bill Barnwell prognosticated that O’Brien will target former Patriots corners Aqib Talib or Logan Ryan due to his familiarity with them. But Bouye is a better fit in a Romeo Crennel defense. Due to his experience in the scheme, he would essentially be plug and play.

This is, at its essence, a put up or shut up moment for Bill O’Brien. If he truly was hamstrung by the moves of Rick Smith, here’s his chance to prove that by undoing one of Smith’s greatest blunders. For those keeping score at home, this is a “rubber meets the road” moment that will act as a litmus test for O’Brien’s sincerity, motives and mental acumen as shot-caller in the personnel department at NRG Park.

As I mentioned above, there is quite the list of impending free agent cornerbacks, including Byron Jones, James Bradberry, Chris Harris Jr., Darqueze Dennard, Kendall Fuller, Brian Poole, Ronald Darby and Josh Norman. While that list bodes well for Houston, it really speaks to the leverage they’ll have if Bouye finds himself looking for work. Houston could re-sign Bouye to a team-friendly deal, better than what they would have paid back in 2017 when they should have originally done it.

https://www.pro-football-reference.com/players/B/BouyA.00.htm

The NFL is hardly a league of second chances, but this scenario is just that for Bill O’Brien’s Houston Texans. If the door opens and O’Brien doesn’t walk through it, we’ll have one more piece of the puzzle as to exactly the type of leader O’Brien is and what Houston’s new defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver will face in his first gig as a NFL play-caller.

#BringBouyeBackBill

What do you think? Given the chance to undo a major blunder, would you? Or do you think the Texans need to keep turning the page and hope for better futures as past mistakes are swept further under the rug?