Brandon Scherff is not a match for the New York Jets
One of the New York Jets‘ biggest needs entering the 2022 offseason is the right guard position. The most well-known right guard set to hit the free agent market is Brandon Scherff, so, naturally, Scherff has been commonly mentioned as a possible target for the Jets.
New York would be wise to spurn the hype and look in another direction.
Before we dive into the red flags surrounding Scherff, let’s get an idea of what it might cost to obtain his services.
Here are a few contracts signed by similarly-accomplished guards in recent years:
- Joe Thuney, 2021 (KC): 5 years, $80 million (age 28 when signed) – $46.9 million guaranteed
- Joel Bitonio, 2021 (CLE): 3 years, $48 million (age 30) – $22 million guaranteed
- Brandon Brooks, 2019 (PHI): 4 years, $56.4 million (age 30) – $30 million guaranteed
- Wyatt Teller, 2021 (CLE): 4 years, $56.8 million (age 26) – $29 million guaranteed
Scherff is 30 years old and will turn 31 this December, so the Joel Bitonio and Brandon Brooks contracts seem like good comparisons as both players were 30 years old when they signed their deals. Bitonio earned $16 million per year and Brooks earned $14.1 million per year. In that case, a deal in the neighborhood of $15 million per year seems like Scherff’s most reasonable projection.
It’s possible that Scherff could shoot for even more than that, though. Scherff earned $15 million on the franchise tag in 2020 and then earned $18 million on a second consecutive franchise tag in 2021. The latter total gave him the largest cap hit among guards in the 2021 season by a fairly wide margin (over $3 million higher than the second-ranked player).
Right now, Thuney and Bitonio are tied for the richest contract among guards in terms of average annual value, each earning $16 million per year. Zack Martin has the richest contract in terms of total value after signing a six-year, $84 million deal in 2018. There could be a chance that Scherff, a five-time Pro Bowler, seeks to take the position lead in both categories.
For the purpose of this article, let’s say that Scherff earns the deal that Brandon Brooks received: four years and $56.8 million with $29 million guaranteed.
Scherff is likely going to earn himself a large payday this offseason. Is he worth that much money?
How good is Scherff?
Scherff owns plenty of accolades. He has made five Pro Bowls and was named a First-Team All-Pro in 2020.
Throughout his career, Scherff has always fared well as a run-blocker, but he has only had a couple of great seasons as a pass-blocker. Here are his ranks among all guards throughout his career:
- 2015: 96.8 pass-blocking efficiency* (42nd of 67), 73.7 Pro Football Focus run-blocking grade (21st)
- 2016: 97.3 pass-blocking efficiency (34th of 63), 76.4 PFF run-blocking grade (15th)
- 2017: 97.5 pass-blocking efficiency (33rd of 63), 79.1 PFF run-blocking grade (4th)
- 2018: 98.2 pass-blocking efficiency (10th of 71), 64.4 PFF run-blocking grade (24th)
- 2019: 98.6 pass-blocking efficiency (4th of 63), 76.6 PFF run-blocking grade (5th)
- 2020: 97.7 pass-blocking efficiency (25th of 60), 80.1 PFF run-blocking grade (9th)
- 2021: 97.4 pass-blocking efficiency (28th of 63), 73.7 PFF run-blocking grade (16th)
*PFF’s pass-blocking efficiency is a stat that measures pressures allowed per snap with double weight to sacks allowed.
Our first red flag regarding Scherff is his trajectory as a pass-blocker. It’s a very well-defined curve that suggests he has a good chance of dipping into below-average territory in the future.
Scherff’s pass-blocking improved in four straight seasons to begin his career until he peaked with an incredible season in 2019. However, he has declined as a pass-blocker in two consecutive seasons. He was only slightly above the middle of the pack in 2021 when it comes to pass-blocking efficiency.
On the positive side, it’s worth noting that Scherff is a great athlete who would fit well in the Jets’ zone-running scheme. He earned an outstanding Relative Athletic Score (RAS) of 9.78 out of 10 for his efforts at the 2015 Combine. In 2021, Scherff ranked 12th out of 59 qualified guards in PFF’s zone-blocking grade (81.8) but only 37th in PFF’s gap-blocking grade (59.5).
So far, this breakdown of Scherff has been fairly balanced. He doesn’t seem like that bad of a target based on what we’ve read so far.
That’s because we have not talked about his durability yet.
Scherff’s inability to stay on the field is the primary red flag that makes him such a risky free agent target. He has proven to be one of the most injury-prone players in the NFL.
It’s not as if Scherff had one or two severe injuries that ballooned his games-missed total. He constantly deals with minor injuries. Scherff has gotten injured at such a reliably frequent rate that it feels like a near-guarantee he will continue to miss a lot of games in the future, especially as he gets into his thirties.
Scherff has missed multiple games in five straight seasons. That includes at least three missed games in each of the last four seasons. In three of those four, he missed at least five games.
Over the past four seasons, Scherff has started only 43 games, an average of 10.8 per year, which means he has missed 5.5 games per year over that span. He appeared in 66.2% of possible games from 2018-21.
Scherff is like a ticking time bomb that is bound to explode at any second. If he has not sat out in a while, you know for a fact that he is going to break down soon enough. He has played no more than 11 consecutive games within one season over the past five years. His second-best streak over that span is a mere eight games.
Scherff has been sidelined for seven separate multi-game stints over the past five seasons, missing an average of 3.4 games per stint.
In 2021, Scherff missed six games. He missed four games early in the year with a knee injury. To be fair, the two games he missed later in the year were due to COVID-19, not an injury.
Prior to 2021, Scherff missed time with two other knee injuries in addition to ailments with his ankle, elbow, and pec.
It doesn’t really matter how good a player is when he misses this much time. The Jets would be paying a truckload of money for a guy who makes it very likely that they will be starting a backup in up to six games or possibly more. They’re not paying for Brandon Scherff – they’re paying for 11 games of Brandon Scherff and six games of someone like Dan Feeney or Greg Van Roten.
This track record is simply far too spotty for Scherff to be worth a massive contract. That is especially the case for a New York Jets team that has struggled mightily with injuries and needs to do everything it can to improve the durability of its roster. Considering New York’s chronic injury woes, I’m not sure Scherff should be on their radar even if he comes at a cost that is far cheaper than what we expect.
Durability must be high on the Jets’ wishlist as they scout potential additions to their offensive line this offseason. Scherff does not come close to checking that box.
Throw in Scherff’s downward trajectory as a pass-blocker that suggests he will be average/below-average in that phase going forward, and you have a player who is absolutely not worth a deal that soars into the eight-figure range.