Saints Release Former Steelers LB, Save Cap Space

Anthony Chickillo

Getty Anthony Chickillo after recording a sack against the Cincinnati Bengals.

According to Adam Schefter, Senior NFL Insider for ESPN, the New Orleans Saints have decided to release former Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Anthony Chickillo.

According to OverTheCap.com, the move provides the Saints with salary cap savings in the amount of $750,000.

Chickillo signed a one-year contract with the Saints in May after being released by the Steelers in March. Chickillo, a product of the University of Miami, had been with the Steelers for the past five seasons, having been drafted by Pittsburgh in the sixth round of the 2015 draft (#212 overall).

Chickillo played in 65 games over the course of his five years with the Steelers, but most of his production came on special teams. On defense he produced 97 total tackles, plus 7.5 sacks, four forced fumbles and three fumbles recovered.

Chickillo was released by the Steelers in a move designed to save salary cap space. But off-the-field issues may have played a role in the decision.

In October of last year, Chickillo was arrested on misdemeanor assault and mischief charges after a ‘domestic situation’ involving his girlfriend. The charges were withdrawn less than two weeks later and Chickillo was permitted to return to Pittsburgh’s active roster. He was subsequently cleared by the league “because of insufficient evidence” and did not face any punishment by the NFL.

Following Chickillo’s release the Steelers drafted Alex Highsmith in the third round of the 2020 draft. In effect, Highsmith will take Chickillo’s spot on the team, serving as a backup outside linebacker and perhaps playing on special teams while the Steelers try to discern whether he is a potential replacement for Bud Dupree, should Dupree—Pittsburgh’s franchise player—leave in free agency after the 2020 season.

Notably, Dupree has filed a grievance with the NFL Players Association, arguing that he is not a linebacker and that he should be paid the franchise salary for a defensive end, which is $17.788 million, as opposed to the $15.828 million is is scheduled to be paid, per the contract he signed in April.

The grievance could account for why the Steelers asked offensive guard David DeCastro to restructure his contract, which has saved the team a reported $3.85 million on its 2020 salary cap. Or it could mean that the Steelers are aiming to extend the contract of one of their existing players, most likely team captain Cameron Heyward.


Chickillo Still Counts Against Pittsburgh’s 2020 Salary Cap

Anthony Chickillo is one of eight former Steelers who count against the team’s 2020 salary cap, a list of players that includes former linebacker Mark Barron, former wide receiver Donte Moncrief, and now-retired offensive guard Ramon Foster. Chickillo carries a salary cap charge of $1,097,500.

The team is facing a bona fide salary cap crisis in 2021, as the cap is likely to go down next year, possibly to a pre-determined minimum of $175 million, which could make it very difficult for the Steelers to retain their top pending unrestricted free agents, which include Heyward and wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster.

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