What we know
Reports circulated yesterday that the Jaguars will be trading cornerback A.J. Bouye to the Denver Broncos for a 2020 fourth-round pick (134th overall), effective on March 18th, when the new league year begins. The fourth-round selection originally acquired by the Denver Broncos from via the San Francisco 49ers in a package deal for former Broncos receiver Emmanuel Sanders.
The move was later confirmed by Bouye himself in speaking with ESPN’s Josina Anderson almost immediately after the trade, and later while speaking to 9News’ Mike Klis who covers the Denver Broncos.
According to Klis, Bouye was informed via his agent, Frederick Lyles, a few days ago he would likely be released, a move which has been speculated for some time. To prevent a bidding war for his services, multiple teams, according to Klis reached out to the Jaguars to inquire about his services.
Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell also, according to Klis, allowed Bouye to have a say on where his ultimate destination would be, a sign of good faith by the team.
Per sources, other teams were in on A.J. Bouye trade. But Bouye expressed a preference to be dealt to Denver and Jags GM Dave Caldwell did him right by working out the deal with Elway/Russell. #9sports— Mike Klis (@MikeKlis) March 4, 2020
By trading Bouye, the Jaguars will free $11,437,500 in cap space, according to OverTheCap.com, which will bring their overall 2020 cap total to ~$32,863,036. The Jaguars originally signed Bouye to a five-year, $67.5 million contract during the 2017 free agency period.
The Broncos will retain the remainder of his contract — essentially his base salaries, $13.4375M in 2020 and $13.5M in 2021, which does not include any guarantees.
What the trade means
Ultimately, the Jaguars were not going to retain Bouye at his figure of $15M against the team’s 2020 salary cap. Although Bouye is still very much the team’s best cornerback on the team as of today — and a leader within the team’s locker room on and off the field —, his play has declined rapidly since his second-team All-Pro season. Because of cap limitations, the Jaguars could not justify retaining Bouye.
Over the last two seasons, Bouye has recorded only two interceptions, one in both 2018 and 2019. While the former high-priced free agent did not regress much in 2018 after allowing only 417 yards through the air, according to Pro Football Focus, he did suffer from a major regression in 2019.
According to Pro Football Focus, the soon-to-be-former Jaguars cornerback allowed 65% of receptions for 772 yards, and three touchdowns. The circumstances surrounding 2018 and 2019 are vastly different, however. In 2019, Bouye saw his two-year running mate, Jalen Ramsey get dealt after a lengthy and public feud with the team to the Los Angeles Rams.
The Jaguars’ defense as a whole also underwent a significant regression due to injuries, overall play, and a lack of talent.
The Jaguars now have only four cornerbacks on the roster currently: D.J. Hayden, Tre Herndon, Parry Nickerson, and Brandon Watson. With this trade, the Jaguars will now have 10 selections in the 2020 NFL Draft, and with a few more moves will have a clear path to add talent at the defensive back position if the right opportunity presents itself in the future.
Was this a good move?
While the Jaguars are yet again losing a key member of their vaunted 2017 defense, the team as a whole needs to move on from their 2017 in general, the team isn’t coming back.
With the newly acquired draft capital, along with the expected freed cap space from more potential trades, the Jaguars have an opportunity to add key pieces in the offseason to offset their losses.
This will also allow the Jaguars to eventually franchise tag defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, as reported by multiple outlets, including ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Monday following the pass rusher’s announcement that he is no longer willing to sign a long-term deal in Jacksonville.
The defensive end franchise tag is slated to be ~$19,316,000, which could increase depending on where the NFL ultimately sets the salary cap and whether the new collective bargaining agreement is enacted in the next few weeks. The Jaguars would have been close to the cap ceiling had the team not made the move they made to free up space, forcing them to play it safer in free agency.
Ultimately, if the Jaguars were never going to retain Bouye, gaining a fourth-round pick as consolation is ideal. The Jaguars can use their newly found capital to move around in the draft or stand pat and infuse the team with more young talent. The Jaguars will enter the 2020 NFL Draft currently with six selections in the first four rounds, plenty to rebuild a struggling defense.
Time will tell how much the Jaguars will miss Bouye’s impact on defense, but for now, the trade appears to be smart and forward-thinking from the Jaguars’ perspective. Bouye will turn 29 before the start of the season, and the draft has a slew of defensive backs to choose from which can come in and provide similar — or better —, production than the veteran defensive back has been able to bring to the table over the past couple of years.