Browns let Buster Skrine walk, banking on Justin Gilbert now

What Mike Pettine has said about Buster Skrine is accurate, and also the feeling among many inside the team facility.

They wanted Skrine back.

But the free agency process became another reminder of the Cleveland Browns' reality -- the franchise is counting on Justin Gilbert. They have to see this project through, despite his wildly erratic rookie year and what Pettine calls a “very personal” issue for the cornerback.

Drafting Gilbert No. 8 overall meant the Browns weren’t going to keep up with Skrine’s rising market, which involved about a dozen teams by the end of the weekend.

Skrine is set to sign a four-year, $25-million deal with the New York Jets for around $13 million guaranteed. If the Jets sign Darrelle Revis, Skrine is in a beautiful situation in New York as a standout No. 2 corner.

Joe Haden no longer has the luxury of a steady running mate on the outside unless Gilbert maximizes his enormous potential.

If Gilbert wasn’t on the roster, Skrine might still be in Cleveland.

Skrine will be missed. He broke up 49 passes in four seasons, with four interceptions in 2014. Yes, he makes mistakes. He ranked second in the NFL with 15 penalties last season. But he can offset some of those mistakes with resiliency and elite speed. Coaches raved about him.

Skrine held off Gilbert from starting all season. If promising fourth-round pick Pierre Desir does the same in 2015, then the Browns have a real problem with Gilbert.

It’s all on him now. The Browns let Skrine walk because they made their bed at corner.

No wonder Joe Haden is working out with Gilbert in South Florida. Clearly he must know he’s got as much riding on Gilbert as the Browns do. He can’t do everything. He’ll need Gilbert to play well.

Ray Farmer will need him to play well, too.