Buster Skrine made leaps and bounds from his sub-par 2016 campaign. He deserves to stick around in 2018 on the last year of his contract with the New York Jets.
The New York Jets had low expectations heading into 2017. They were coming off a 5-11 letdown year that led to a massive roster overhaul. Fans were begging for Buster Skrine to be included in the purge, but general manager Mike Maccagnan gave him one more chance. It ended up being an underrated decision in what was a hectic offseason.
Skrine struggled in 2016 largely due in part to the domino effect around him. Marcus Williams‘ high-ankle sprain followed by the benching of Darrelle Revis forced him to play on the outside for half of the season. His 5’9″ frame did him no favors.
He recorded 47 tackles, six pass deflections, an interception and a sack in 14 games. On Pro Football Focus, he owned a 45 overall grade, which ranked close to rock bottom amongst the starting cornerbacks.
The 28-year-old flipped the script in 2017 with one of his best seasons to date. Stable health from Morris Claiborne, Darryl Roberts, and Juston Burris allowed Skrine to stay in the slot where he thrives. He finished with 63 tackles, nine pass deflections, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, an interception and a sack in 15 contests.
He additionally set career-best grades overall (65.7) and in coverage (61.9) on PFF. His 86.8 in run defense ranks fourth amongst the 175 corners who played at least one run defense snap. Skrine saw the 13th-highest overall snap count (1,010) and 14th-highest pass rush snap count (22) amongst corners. The heavy workload didn’t phase him one bit.
The main case for his return is how valuable he is to the secondary. He’s the lone true nickel on the roster and the only corner beside Rashard Robinson who earned pass rushing snaps. Roberts has scarcely played in the slot while Claiborne if he were to be retained, has spent almost all of his career as a CB1 or CB2.
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Skrine’s contract is also very affordable right now. He signed a four-year deal worth $25 million ($13 million guaranteed) in 2015. His 2018 cap hit is $8.5 million and $6 million can be saved if he’s released, per Over The Cap.
With a current total of $79 million in room, the Jets aren’t in need of that $6 million. Instead, they can raise their cap total to $102.4 million by cutting the likes of Muhammad Wilkerson, Ben Ijalana, James Carpenter and Matt Forte, per OTC.
Lastly, Skrine is more familiar with Todd Bowles‘ system than any free agent. Whether it’s D.J. Hayden, Nickell Robey-Coleman or Sterling Moore, Skrine has the upper hand on any nickel or dime corner on the market. It’s tempting to throw money at one of them, but New York already has their guy and other positions to address.
Maccagnan has an easy choice to make here. It’d be naive not to hold onto Skrine after the production he gave the Jets last year. Give him the money he deserves and make cuts elsewhere.