With free agency around the corner, A.J. Bouye could hit the open market as the top cornerback available in the NFL.
The four-year veteran finished the 2016 season with career highs with 11 starts, 62 tackles, 16 passes defensed, two tackles for loss, one sack, and one quarterback hit. In the postseason, Bouye picked off both Tom Brady and Connor Cook, becoming the first player in Texans history with an interception in back-to-back playoff games.
"A.J. is a very important part of our team, I've said that all along," head coach Bill O'Brien said Wednesday at the NFL Combine. "He's a guy that's really worked hard to improve his own skillset. He played well for us this year, played well for us last year. John Butler, our secondary coach, has done an excellent job with him. We really want him back."
Bouye began the 2016 season fourth on the depth chart and worked his way up to the starting lineup, following injuries to Kareem Jackson and Kevin Johnson. Bouye, undrafted in 2013, signed with the Texans as a college free agent and was re-signed last spring when he became a restricted free agent.
This year, O'Brien and the Texans would like to find a way to keep the Texans No. 1 defense intact and Bouye on the roster before free agency opens on March 9 at 3 p.m. CST.
"We realize that free agency and things like that, the process of how it all works," O'Brien said. "Hopefully, we can get him back before free agency starts but if it doesn't, we'll continue to work hard and try and get him back on our team. But we'd like to have him back."