FOXBOROUGH, MASS (CBS HOUSTON) – Entering the 2016 season cornerback AJ Bouye was fourth on the Texans depth chart at that position with veterans Kareem Jackson and Johnathan Joseph returning and second year standout Kevin Johnson coming into his own as a player.
With varying injuries throughout the season for the Texans’ secondary, including a season ending foot injury to Johnson, Bouye was given a lot of of opportunities to succeed this season for the Texans starting 11 games in Johnson’s absence and continuously being rated as one of the top corners in the NFL by Pro Football Focus.
Bouye picked off Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in Saturday’s loss to the Patriots in the AFC divisional round. It was just the third interception the former MVP has thrown all season. The pick was Bouye’s second of the post-season after coming up with a pick against Oakland in the Wild Card round.
It has been those plays, along with pass deflections and strong overall pass defense that helped make the Texans the top defense in yards allowed in the NFL in 2016.
After their 30The Texans will have plenty of decisions to make in the offseason with nose tackle Vince Wilfork contemplating retirement and linebacker Brian Cushing and Joseph could find themselves as victims of the salary cap. The Texans will likely have to decide between the veteran Joseph and the corner entering his prime in Bouye as the later hits free agency this offseason.
With his successes, Bouye will be near the top of a lot of GM wish lists this offseason at the cornerback position. While he understands there will be overtures from other franchises, the former undrafted free agent has a strong sense of loyalty to the team that took a shot on him.
“Yes, (Houston) is where I want to be,” Bouye said after Saturday night’s loss to the New England Patriots in the AFC Divisional playoffs. “I’m talking like I’m going to be here. I’m leaving it all in God’s hands, just going to let my agent take care of things.”
Jackson was an impending free agent after 2015, but ended up re-signing before hitting the open market with a four-year $34 contract. He understands more than anyone what Bouye will be going through for the next several weeks.
“Right now he’s got to play the waiting game,” Jackson said when asked if he had any advice for Bouye as he hit free agency. ” (Bouye) went out and did what he was supposed to do and that’s play ball. I think he’ll be the top free agent corner…he played his ass off.”
Bouye knows that he has a unique opportunity ahead of him, especially as a former undrafted free agent signing. Unlike Jackson, who made several million under his initial rookie contract, Bouye barely cracked the one million dollar annual salary for the first time this season.
“I think I proved to a lot of people that I can play in this league, even those that gave up on me,” Bouye said. ” Just the opportunity to take care of my daughter and take care of my dad, it’s a blessing in disguise and I’m very appreciative of it, but like I said I’m going to be back.”
The closeness and support amongst the members of the Texans secondary is obvious when you step into the Houston locker room. The group supports each other and respects one another. Jackson expressed full support for Bouye’s offseason journey through free agency, and hopes he can cash in himself.
“Definitely,” Jackson said when asked if Bouye has earned a big free agent contract. “He did the things he needed to to receive a huge pay day. (The defense) definitely will be sitting back and waiting to see what happens. Looking forward to him taking us all to dinner.”
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