The Seattle Seahawks find themselves in unfamiliar territory in 2017, looking to add an exceptional cornerback rather than looking to retain or lose one. After being unable to come to agreements with players like Brandon Browner and Byron Maxwell in the past, the Seahawks find themselves in a pickle this year, having to instead find a new starting cornerback due to a likely-devastating knee injury to DeShawn Shead. There will be a lot of corners mocked to Seattle as we approach the 2017 NFL Draft, and for good reason as it is set to be a decent class at that position .... but they won’t have to go that route if they find one in free agency.
There is not going to be a better cornerback on the market than A.J. Bouye.
Undrafted out of Central Florida in 2013, Bouye was signed by the Houston Texans and quickly carved a place for himself as a legitimate member of the 53-man roster. Though he barely played as a rookie, Bouye was someone the Texans felt they had to hold onto, and he made the final roster that year before being placed on injured reserve after six games. In 2014, Bouye made six starts and recorded three interceptions. He went back to more of a reserve role in 2015, but this season he made 11 starts with 15 passes broken up, generally being regarded as one of the top 10 or 15 cornerbacks in the NFL for 2016.
Now Bouye hits free agency and will likely command a minimum of $10.5 million per season, which is what Maxwell got with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2015. Would Seattle be willing to pay Bouye what they weren’t willing to pay Maxwell, given their disastrous situation at the position?
The first thing you always have to look at with “Pete Carroll-type corners” is length. Bouye is listed at 6’, 186 lbs (virtually identical to Jeremy Lane) and ran the 40 in 4.55 seconds. That being said, his vertical and broad jump were significantly worse than Lane’s, while his 3-cone, short shuttle, and 10 and 20-yard splits were comparable. Yet, we have to go back to his length.
If you search for terms associated with Bouye, you’ll often hear about his “length.” Bill O’Brien has praised him for “length, speed, and toughness.” Teammate DeAndre Hopkins said of Bouye, “He’s bigger than most corners as far as height-wise and arm length.” It’s pretty consistent how often people will refer to his length as a strength. (Words I never thought about how they rhymed until just this moment.)
But do the measurements back that up? The tough answer is: We just don’t really know.
The Seahawks want cornerbacks with 32” arms. This has been a theme for the last seven years. They don’t really deviate from it. We’ve spent a lot of time on the 3000 NFL Mock Draft podcast talking about LSU corner Tre’Davious White, and we just found out at the Senior Bowl that he’s at 31.5” or so. That seems bad. However, Bouye went to Central Florida and was not at the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine. In my research for his arm length, I could only find the ESPN page on his draft profile, which lists him at 31 and 5/8th-inch arms.
If that is true, than Bouye may not cut it with Seattle. Maybe if he was a draft prospect, but now we’re talking about paying a player $11 million or more per season when he might not have the athletic profile that Carroll prefers. Then again, if the narrative on Bouye is to believed, that he’s got great length, maybe measurements will show that he actually does have arms reaching 32” and beyond. In that case, it has to be evaluated.
With Bouye and Richard Sherman, the Seahawks could have the best cornerback duo in the NFL. But they might only be able to make one free agent splash this year, so would it be wise for them to be spending $25 million per season on their top two cornerbacks? I mean, maybe. According to PFF, Bouye allowed 41.5% of passes his way to be completed over the last six games. That would be devastating to NFC opponents like the Atlanta Falcons, Green Bay Packers, and Dallas Cowboys. It could give the Legion their Boom back. But it may also just be overkill.
I don’t see Bouye coming into the fold this year. It would be interesting if they bring him in for an interview, intriguing as hell if you started to think about what he could do for the defense, but just too damn expensive when you consider the other needs Seattle has to fill. That being said, the Seahawks can’t afford another Cary Williams situation either. Bouye would be a huge get for the defense if they went that route.