Speculation surrounding the Jaguars and the potential termination of cornerback A.J. Bouye’s contract has ran rampant over the past several weeks — with merit. However, should the Jaguars be so quick to cast Bouye aside even after a couple of average performances in 2018 and 2019?
One of the few marquee free agents the Jaguars signed in 2017, Bouye was given a hefty five-year $67M contract including $26M guaranteed. During his first year with the team, Bouye exceeded all expectations, regardless of his contract. Playing opposite of former All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey, Bouye ranked sixth overall according to Pro Football Focus in cornerback rankings compiled six interceptions — the most on the team, earned a Pro Bowl appearance and was voted to the AP’s second-team All Pro list to create the best young cornerback duo in the NFL.
In 2018, Bouye saw a decline in performance and availability (missed three games due to a calf injury) after such an unbelievable start to his Jaguars career. Bouye allowed only 417 yards, however he added only one interception in his second season with the team. The decline, however, was not expected to last more than one season.
In 2019, Bouye had an extremely down year after assuming the team’s number one cornerback role following a blockbuster trade involving cornerback Jalen Ramsey. With second-year cornerback Tre Herndon manning Bouye’s former spot the sixth-year cornerback was tasked with handling opposing team’s number one receivers. According to PFF, Bouye allowed 772 yards and three touchdowns on the year.
Bouye expressed his frustration with the team’s performance last season noting there were players missing that were expected to be with the team prior to the season, including Ramsey.
“It’s a lot of things — but then you also have to look at it this way, coming in we expected a personnel that we didn’t get,” Bouye said last season when asked if he ever thinks about the 2017 team and how different the current defense is today. “We had one that requested a trade, we had one that no-showed at linebacker, and you have [defensive tackle] Marcell [Dareus] who got hurt so we’re just trying to make it work with what we got. It’s tough sometimes, and sometimes we can’t adapt to it and we try to just stay within the schemes.”
The Jaguars can save $11,437,500, according to OverTheCap.com if they elect to release Bouye prior to the start of the new league year on March 18th. While the team has issues regarding their cap space in 2020, there are a variety of directions the team could go to alleviate it enough to land one or two solid free agents along with re-signing Yannick Ngakoue if the two were to come to an agreement.
If the team were to cast Bouye aside rather quickly following three seasons with Jacksonville, the Jaguars would be forced in a position without a clear starter at cornerback and an inconsistent player on the opposite side in Herndon. While Herndon had a solid year considering his status last season, the team will need to add competition at the position regardless of whether or not Bouye remains with the team beyond March 18th.
Having stability at the cornerback position is important in today’s NFL, and with another offseason of preparation there remains a possibility of Bouye returning at his 2017 form, especially with additional talent on defense via the NFL Draft or free agency.