Even though the 2016 season did not finish the way the Minnesota Vikings would have hoped, there still is a lot for them of which to be proud. Some new players stepped up and carved out significant roles going forward, they have consistency at the quarterback position and they possess an elite-level defense. Had the offense found any sort of rhythm during the season, the Vikings could have been a true contender due to their defense. Like most defenses, holes still exist. One player who may be able to fix that is A.J. Bouye.
Coming into 2016, the Houston Texans had major questions at the cornerback position. They did not seem to have anyone that could truly shutdown opposing receivers. Throughout the course of the year, a new hero emerged in the secondary.
Bouye went undrafted out of Central Florida in 2013 and was never really expected to do much in his NFL career. After being signed by the Texans, he made zero impact in his rookie year. He would receive many more opportunities in the following two seasons, but his true mark was not made until 2016.
As Houston searched for a leader in the secondary, Bouye stepped up and helped the Texans boast the league’s top overall defense. Bouye is a wizard when it comes to press-man coverage and became one of the true shutdown corners in the league. Because of that, the Texans will have to pay a hefty price to keep him.
With the team locked into a bad contract with their quarterback and plenty of needs to fill elsewhere, Bouye may end up walking and finding his desired deal with another team.
If that happens, the Vikings need to come calling.
The Vikings not have a large amount of cap space, but that is expected to change. There are a number of expensive contracts they should re-work to help expand their salary cap to be able to bring in more players. Even with some glaring needs on the offensive line, they should not pass up on the opportunity to sign someone like Bouye.
Head coach Mike Zimmer’s defensive scheme is a near-perfect fit for Bouye. Minnesota’s corners play a great deal of press coverage and get physical with wide receivers at the line-of-scrimmage. That is right up Bouye’s alley.
The Vikings are dealing with a bit of uncertainty with two of their veteran cornerbacks. Captain Munnerlyn and Terence Newman are free agents and it is unlikely both players are retained. That leaves Xavier Rhodes to lead the secondary.
Rhodes, himself, emerged as one of the league’s best young cornerbacks and pairing him with Bouye would give the Vikings one of the most formidable secondaries in the league. In fact, it could put the Vikings over the top and turn the defense into a true championship unit.
Bouye is going to be an expensive commodity, but he will be worth it. There is some inherent risk to signing a young player coming off their best year, but in the right system, Bouye will thrive. Zimmer will give Bouye every chance to develop into one the league’s most elite cornerbacks, so he should welcome the opportunity.
The Vikings have the pass rush and they have the front-seven to stop the run and pressure quarterbacks. They just need one more piece to turn the pass defense into one of the NFL’s best, which would catapult the Vikings into title contention. Bouye could be the man to put the Vikings at the top of the NFC and finally solidify the defense for years to come.
Caleb Ikerd is the lead staff writer for the Indianapolis Colts, Indiana Hoosiers, Oklahoma Sooners and Minnesota Vikings at Endzone Score. Follow him on Twitter @calikerd.