The Pittsburgh Steelers are one of the teams most affected by the lowered salary cap coming, and it may lead to them losing a stud defensive starter in Mike Hilton. The Chicago Bears are likely to let Buster Skrine go after a poor season on the field ended with a serious injury. Would they be a team that is in the market to sign Mike Hilton, or should they let him walk in free agency?
Chicago Bears should Sign Mike Hilton in Free Agency
Mike Hilton is not hands-down better than Buster Skrine in coverage, although he does make more plays on the ball. However, two areas where Hilton shines high above Skrine come against the run and as a pass rusher.
Hilton had a 9.4% run stop rate in 2020 according to PFF. For comparison, Skrine was a 5.3% rate. In 2019, the difference was even bigger in favor of Mike Hilton.
However, Hilton stands far and away above Skrine as a pass rusher. He has 19 pressures over the past two seasons compared to 5 for Skrine. To be fair, he blitzed 104 times compared to 35 for Skrine.
Still, on a per snap basis, Hilton got home 18% of the time to just 14% for Skrine. The team will save $3 million by letting Skrine go, and were scheduled to owe him $6 million. According to Spotrac, he is only expected to see $7 million per year. They are halfway there letting go Skrine, and when paying Skrine $6 million is the other option, Hilton is a no brainer.
The Bears have depth, but the slot was a serious issue when Skrine went down. Why not upgrade strength and have a shut down secondary with an addition of a true blitzer.
Chicago Bears should Pass on signing Mike Hilton
Duke Shelley struggled last season but saw his first NFL snaps towards the end of last year. Now, he is entering year three and the Bears should expect a jump. Beyond that, they have Kindle Vildor who they drafted last season. Lastly, as noted, while Hilton is elite against the run and as a pass rusher, he is average in coverage. The Chicago Bears have too many draft picks dedicated to corner, and have too many needs elsewhere to add another cornerback.
They paid Skrine because he came in cheaper than Bryce Callahan. Replacing Skrine should come at cost savings, not an increase. They are a team that would take the cheaper slot option rather than paying up for a veteran such as Hilton. If anything, expect another late-round shot at slot or look for them to buy low on a veteran looking for a cheap deal.