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Was the A.J. Bouye trade savvy or cheap?

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I asked Big Cat Country’s Ryan O’Bleness for his insight.

Jacksonville Jaguars v Denver Broncos
The Broncos got a first hand look at Bouye’s game in 2019.
Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

The Denver Broncos are adding to their secondary with a trade for former Pro Bowl cornerback A.J. Bouye from the Jacksonville Jaguars. To get some insight on the acquisition, I reached out to Big Cat Country’s Ryan O’Bleness to get his thoughts on the deal, the player, and what it means for the Broncos’ defense.

Our conversation has been lightly edited for clarity.

1st and 10

What do you think about the trade for both teams?

O’Bleness: I wouldn’t say I’m “happy” [Bouye] is leaving the Jaguars, but I am happy with the compensation. I was hoping the Jaguars would get a little more for him, possibly a fourth rounder and another player, or a third rounder, but chances were very high Bouye would have been a cap casualty and he would have walked away from Jacksonville without the team gaining anything in return.

I think it is a good move for the Broncos with Chris Harris Jr. set to leave in free agency. Bouye’s play has declined a bit over the past two seasons, but he was thrown into a tough situation last season, having to fill in as the No. 1 cornerback for the Jaguars after the Jalen Ramsey trade, and the entire unit struggled. What also works in the Broncos’ favor is that all of Bouye’s guaranteed money is already paid. The $13 million base salary isn’t too crazy, either. That said, I do think Bouye is better served as a No. 2 cornerback than a No. 1.

2nd and 8

The charting numbers by Sports Info Solutions and Pro Football Focus are not kind to his 2019. Do you think it’s mostly the Jalen Ramsey trade, a decline, or something else entirely?

O’Bleness: As I alluded to above, I do think having his running mate demand a trade and get shipped out of town affected his play, and maybe on his morale, too. He’s also dealt with a variety of injuries over the past two seasons, but still managed to play in 27 of the past 32 games.

Still, his decline on the field was noticeable and he turns 29 in August. Again, Jacksonville’s defense struggled at every level, and couldn’t shut down the run, which opened up the pass for opposing offenses. I think all of this needs to be taken into consideration. I would say if you surround Bouye with talent, he is a very good player for your defense, like he was in 2017, but I also don’t believe he is his 2017 self in 2020.

3rd and 5

How would you describe Bouye’s style as a corner? What are his biggest strengths?

O’Bleness: I would say Bouye is a solid cover cornerback with good size and decent length. The Jaguars mostly play a cover three scheme, so he is very familiar with zone concepts. He’s been burned by guys with superior top end speed (such as Antonio Brown), but for the most part, Bouye can hold his own in man coverage as well. In 2017, he ranked in the top-12 amongst all cornerbacks with an 88.0 Pro Football Focus grade — despite teams throwing away from Jalen Ramsey and targeting him more frequently. He also allowed a historically low a 31.6 passer rating against him that year..

Needless to say, he earned Pro Bowl and second-team All-Pro honors that year. He did decline a bit in 2018, but still ranked 22nd amongst all cornerbacks, according to PFF. We talked about his somewhat rough 2019 (58.4 overall grade), but if you look at his career track record, there is reason for optimism. He’s only intercepted one pass in each of the past two seasons, but he intercepted six in 2017 and has recorded 34 passes defended in his three seasons in Jacksonville.

4th and inches

Do you think Elway was being savvy, or was he being cheap in acquiring A.J. Bouye?

O’Bleness: I think it’s a savvy move on John Elway’s part— Again, Bouye doesn’t have any guaranteed money owed and he is not locking himself into a long-term deal with Bouye, whose contract expires in 2022. Elway could also look for ways to restructure the contract that would benefit the team.