CHARLOTTE – The Panthers made another significant addition at a position of need, as they continue an offseason trend of bolstering their defense.
The team on Wednesday agreed to terms with cornerback A.J. Bouye.
Bouye won't be eligible for the first two games of the season as he finishes up a suspension for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing substances last year, meaning the Panthers will still be shorthanded in September. But with the schedule expanding to 17 games, that leaves 15 in which he could make a significant difference to a defense short on experience. He's still able to participate fully in any offseason program, training camp, and preseason games.
Bouye started his career as an undrafted rookie with the Texans, but grew into a productive starter there. That earned him a free agent payday with the Jaguars in 2017, as he signed a five-year, $67.5 million deal to jump across the division in free agency.
He paid immediate dividends, with six interceptions that year, as teams generally tried to avoid his teammate Jalen Ramsey. Creating turnovers like that was a big part of why the Jaguars advanced to the AFC Championship Game.
Jacksonville traded Bouye to Denver last March, but the Broncos released him for cap reasons this spring.
He's started 69 games in his career, and has 14 career interceptions (including one off new teammate Sam Darnold in 2019).
As general manager Scott Fitterer explained Monday after trading for Darnold, the goal of every offseason is to have as many blanks filled in on the depth chart prior to the draft, so you're not drafting to fill a specific position.
"What we wanted to do going into this draft, through free agency, through this trade with Sam, was to just get rid of all the needs we have," Fitterer said. "We wanted to get to a place where the roster was in a good spot, and we could take the best available player at number eight.
"We could always move up, and we could always move back, but this puts us in a position to make the right football decision for this team moving forward."
Bouye is another step in that direction, leaving defensive tackle as one of the few glaring spots of need on the roster.
View photos of cornerback A.J. Bouye through the years with Houston, Jacksonville and Denver.