"Free agency's tough and I can tell you that we want A.J. Bouye back," O'Brien told reporters Monday. "I mean, the guy is one of us, you know what I mean? He was a guy who was undrafted before we got here and when we came here, based off his own work ethic, the coaching from (secondary coach) John Butler, the guy has done an excellent job.
"I mean, I would tell you just from talking people around the league who I really trust that I think he's viewed as a top corner, so we really want him back and hopefully we can get something done where he can be back. But it's tough. These decisions are personal decisions, but all of them are tough on both sides but we've love to have A.J. back."
As is often seen in these situations early on, Bouye also expressed a desire to remain in Houston.
"I would like to be back," Bouye told the Houston Chronicle. "It'll mean a lot because it'll show that they wanted me and saw what I did this year and there are better things that are going to happen in the future from an individual and team standpoint.
"I've been through a lot here with the organization, a lot of ups and downs, and they never gave up on me. I'm appreciative of that. I'd like to be back, but we'll see what happens."
As I wrote last week, Bouye was a late-bloomer who is done working his way up through the depth chart. The league has recognized his ability as a top-flight cornerback and, given the expected competition on the open market, should dictate a very lucrative contract for the 25-year-old former undrafted free agent.
Bouye picked off a pair of passes in the playoffs, giving him three interceptions on the season along with 16 passes defensed and a sack. Along with veteran Johnathan Joseph, Bouye helps allow the Texans' dominant pass rushing tandem of Jadeveon Clowney and J.J. Watt to function properly. Houston will just need to pay dearly for that privilege again in 2017.