A.J. Bouye either played the contract-year game brilliantly, or his emergence as an elite NFL cornerback just happened to come at the perfect time.
After three years as a backup with the Houston Texans, Bouye shined in his first year as a starter in 2016, which was also his last year under contract. He parlayed that one impressive season into a lucrative free-agent deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars worth a reported $67.5 million over five years.
In his first season getting paid like a superstar, Bouye played like one.
His 56 tackles, six interceptions and 18 pass breakups in 2017 landed him on the All-Pro second team and on the Pro Bowl roster for the first time. He was also voted into the No. 35 spot on the NFL Network’s Top 100 player ranking for 2018.
Among cornerbacks who were targeted at least 50 times last season, Bouye allowed the lowest passer rating (41.7) and did not allow a touchdown.
His efforts helped the Jaguars to a 10-6 record, best in the AFC South. Bouye and the Jacksonville defense held the Buffalo Bills without a touchdown in their 10-3 wild-card playoff game victory, did just enough for the Jags to squeak by the Pittsburgh Steelers 45-42 in the next round, and had a solid showing in a 24-20 loss to the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game.
Bouye and Jalen Ramsey (All-Pro first team) are now considered the best cornerback tandem in the NFL. They were named starters for the AFC at the Pro Bowl and both appeared on the NFL Network’s Top 100 list; the only other cornerback teammates on the list were Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib of the L.A. Rams.
Bouye gets the ball thrown his way more than many other top-level cornerbacks because Ramsey is so good, but Bouye responds like he relishes the challenge and enjoys forcing quarterbacks into pick-your-poison situations.