The Pittsburgh Steelers entered the offseason facing a major salary cap crunch that forced their hand to make a number of difficult decisions, and saw them release several players, among them sixth-year veteran outside linebacker Anthony Chickillo, in order to clear enough cap space to do what they had set out to do.
Truth be told, the imbalanced contract that he signed the year before, which put his 2020 cap hit much higher than 2019 and reflected value clearly beyond what any backup outside linebacker would be worth, made him a likely roster cut even if the move weren’t needed.
But the point is that it happened, anyway, and for the first time in his professional career, Chickillo had to look for a job. It wasn’t easy trying to navigate those waters, especially for the first time, amid a viral pandemic with air travel restrictions in place. Complicating matters even further was his midseason arrest last season.
Though all charges were later dropped and he was quickly reinstated from the Commissioner’s Exempt List after missing just one or two games, it raised red flags for teams around the league, who, according to NOLA.com, were hesitant about signing him without meeting with him directly.
During the Steelers’ bye week, Chickillo had a public altercation with his partner, charged with misdemeanor simple assault and criminal mischief. He was quickly removed from the Steelers’ roster, but within weeks, the charges were dropped, with the couple working out their issues, and Pittsburgh retained him and played him for the remainder of the season.
“I had to take a step back and evaluate myself personally and face the issues that I had to face”, he told NOLA.com about what he had learned from that incident. While the Steelers stuck by him, having gotten to know his character for half a decade, he was far less familiar to the other 31 teams with whom he had to seek employment.
Earlier this week, of course, he inked a one-year deal with the New Orleans Saints, which whom he said that he is looking forward to getting more opportunities to rush out of a three-point stance. “I’ve always liked rushing with my hand down better than out of the two-point (stance), so it’s going to be a lot of fun”, he said.
He also said that he believes his having come from a winning culture and tradition with the Steelers organization prepares him well to step into the Saints’ locker room, so he expects to fit in well with his new surroundings.
Just in case anybody is wondering, this signing has no bearing on the compensatory formula for a number of reasons. First and foremost, the compensatory window closes the Monday after the draft. Secondly, he was not an unrestricted free agent because he was released. Finally, whatever deal he signed was surely not large enough to qualify for the formula.