Since Von Miller went down last week with a season-ending ankle injury, all eyes have been on Denver Broncos' GM John Elway to see if he would sign one of the remaining veterans out on the market who would bring proven experience to the defense.
After a couple of overtures last week to free agents Clay Matthews and Cameron Wake, the Broncos are opting to go a different route. On Thursday, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported the Broncos are signing a New Orleans Saints practice-squadder to the 53-man roster.
"Broncos are signing linebacker Anthony Chickillo off of the Saints’ practice squad, per Drew Rosenhaus (agent)," Schefter tweeted.
The Broncos had a roster spot open up (albeit temporarily) when cornerback A.J. Bouye was placed on injured reserve on Wednesday with a shoulder injury. Bouye can come off IR after three weeks.
As an unprotected practice squad player, Chickillo was eligible to leave the Saints' practice squad only if an outside team offered to sign him to their active roster. Such was the case with Chickillo and the Broncos.
Chickillo (6-foot-3, 255 pounds) is a sixth-year player who spent his first five years in the NFL with the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers drafted him in the sixth round back in 2015 and he would go on to nine games.
After his rookie deal expired, the Steelers gave Chickillo a two-year, $8 million extension but he would only play out one year of it in 2019. Pittsburgh released Chickillo this past spring and he landed with the Saints.
Although he didn't make the final roster cuts in New Orleans, he remained on the practice squad where the Broncos pounced. All in, Chickillo has 7.5 career sacks appearing in 65 NFL games.
He has 97 combined tackles (59 solo). As a backup's backup, maybe Chickillo can offer some depth to the rush linebackers while making a special teams impact.
Again, though, similarly to the signing of Isaiah Irving to the practice squad on Wednesday, if the Broncos are looking for a veteran to bring palpable impact to the defense and provide some effective pass rush, compared to who else is out there on the market, it's difficult to see Chickillo being that guy.
But, I will say this. Sometimes, a new NFL home can have a surprising effect on a player, especially if he lands in the right system suited to his skill-set. Time will tell.
For now, the Broncos are holding onto their considerable salary cap space coming out of an opening-week performance that saw the defense post just one, single, solitary sack.
Would rather see them sign a "diamond in the rough" like Chickillo and Irving as opposed to Mathews or Wake.
Chikillo can provide some effective back up support to Chubb and Attaochu.
He is a good fit since the Broncos really only had a back up position available.
With Simmons Lindsay Bolles Wilkinson set to be free agents, Sutton up for an extension, its great the Broncos are selling out next year for this year. Need that cap to roll over next year
I'd say we let Wilkinson go
Agreed! Going for a Mathews or a Wake makes some fans think they are getting the big name at their prime, rather than an aging player who is likely coasting on their reputation at that point. I'd rather have someone hungry who is willing to learn and work in the system.
I like the direction of the Denver Broncos. High priced talent often disappoints or doesn’t mesh, but a patient, teaching culture can be a much more successful in developing and building an enduring champion.
It doesn't hurt to get someone who knows Pittsburgh's scheme and calls, maybe we can exploit that as well.