The Pittsburgh Steelers signed outside linebacker Anthony Chickillo to a two-year, $8 million contract officially yesterday at the start of the new league year, which is a substantial windfall for the career backup who, up to this point of his career has had his special teams contributions and his ability to play on both the left and right side of the defense featured as his greatest attributes.
Which is partly what leads me to believe that he may only see the first year of that deal, reminiscent of the one signed by Flozell Adams in 2010. While the final details of the contract have not yet been reported as of the time of this writing (hopefully they haven’t been released by the time it gets published), I’m guessing his base salary in 2020 is significantly higher than in 2019.
With a reduced cap hit in year one, they give him the incentive to re-sign in Pittsburgh over potential suitors (the New England Patriots reportedly having been among them), with, frankly, the off chance that he develops into a more significant role by 2020.
Chickillo will likely see at least $3-$4 million in cash in 2019 between his base salary and his signing bonus, but will not count against the cap in that amount, which could come in at under $3 million. He made a little under $2 million last season as a restricted free agent.
The issue is that the Steelers couldn’t really afford to lose him right now with Bud Dupree heading into his final season and there being no other proven depth behind him. both Olasunkanmi Adeniyi and Keion Adams have done nothing at the professional level.
Maybe the team really does value his defensive play that much more than I do, but sitting here in the spring of 2019, I find there to be a very good chance he is not on the roster at this time in 2020, or soon after—say, post-draft—due to his salary.
That’s not a guarantee, though. They paid Arthur Moats $2.5 million in 2016, for example, with a cap hit north of $3 million, in a year in which the plan was for him to be the backup. His cap hit wasn’t much lower at nearly $2.9 million in 2017.
Chickillo’s cap hit in 2020, however, will likely be around $5 million, give or take a few hundred thousand. That’s a lot to pay a number three outside linebacker who is below average as a pass rusher, not matter how well he plays on special teams.
This is in no way to say that I’m rooting for his release or begrudging the money that he was able to make off seven career sacks and 56 defensive tackles, but more so the prediction of a strong possibility. At least, if the Steelers address the outside linebacker position as they should over the next two offseasons, it should be a reasonable likelihood that it results in him seeing only the first year of this contract.