The journey toward Super Bowl LII ended far too prematurely for the Pittsburgh Steelers, sending them into offseason mode before we were ready for it. But we are in it now, and are ready to move on, through the Combine, through free agency, through the draft, into OTAs, and beyond.
We have asked and answered a lot of questions over the years and will continue to do so, and at the moment, there seem to be a ton of questions that need answering. A surprise early exit in the postseason will do that to you though, especially when it happens in the way it did.
You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring developments all throughout the offseason process, all the way down to Latrobe. Pending free agents, possible veteran roster cuts, contract extensions, pre-draft visits, pro days, all of it will have its place when the time arises.
Question: Assuming that the Steelers will bring back Anthony Chickillo, what sort of deal will he receive?
It has become evident that the Steelers are in the process of making significant changes to their outside linebackers group. That started with the drafting of T.J. Watt in the first round last year, and continued with the release of James Harrison, who continues to want to play. The next meaningful decision is whether or not to pick up Bud Dupree’s fifth-year option.
Behind Watt and Dupree are, or potentially were, Anthony Chickillo and Arthur Moats, with rookie Keion Adams on injured reserve and Farrington Huegenin on the practice squad. Adams remains on his rookie deal, while Huegenin has been retained on a Reserve/Future contract.
Both Chickillo and Moats, however, are scheduled to be free agents, with the latter the less likely to return. He was passed over on the depth chart two seasons ago and is only a minor contributor on special teams, also entering his ninth season.
Chickillo, in the meantime, is entering his fourth season and will be a restricted free agent. While most have given up the notion of him becoming a stable full-time starter, he remains a valuable contributor to the team, particularly on defense, where he is an integral participant in the coverage and other units.
Just recently in my free agents analysis, I posed the question of whether or not Chickillo would be worth the original-round restricted free agent tender. While this year’s total has not been officially announced, last year, the original-round tender was just a hair under $1.8 million, and I don’t think Chickillo brings in that sort of production to justify it.
But the Steelers might. They gave Chris Hubbard the tender a year ago and he proved to be more than worth it. The decision that they ultimately make might tip their hand regarding how they intend to invest in the position this offseason.
Will he be given the restricted free agent tender? Will they, like Roosevelt Nix, try to work out a long-term, low-value deal? Will they attempt to retain him for a one-year, minimum qualifying contract? Might they simply go in another direction? Given his contributions on special teams, I would not expect the final option to be acted upon.