Steelers have limited options when it comes to saving money for Bud Dupree

Mark Barron #26 of the Pittsburgh Steelers (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Mark Barron #26 of the Pittsburgh Steelers (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

The Steelers would like to be able to re-sign edge defender Bud Dupree this offseason, but money is tight. Here’s what Pittsburgh can do.

Mike Tomlin has made it no secret that signing Bud Dupree to a contract extension is a top priority for the Steelers. In fact, “priority” was the exact word he used to describe the edge rusher in his press conference on New Year’s Eve.

Dupree is a former first-round pick who was once considered a bust for the Steelers, but this year he finally became the player we were all hoping he would be. The fifth-year outside linebacker racked up 68 tackles, 11.5 sacks, 16 tackles for a loss, and 17 quarterback hits. Dupree also managed 4 forced fumbles and 2 fumble recoveries this season – both career highs.

In addition, Dupree has had a fantastic bill of health over the past three seasons, despite playing a high percentage of defensive snaps each year. All of these factors make him a player that Pittsburgh would love to keep around to play opposite of star pass rusher, T.J. Watt.

Unfortunately, money is extremely tight at the moment for the Steelers. In fact, Pittsburgh is 29th in the league in cap space with just over $5.4 million to spread around, according to Over the Cap.

This is barely enough to sign their draft class this offseason, let alone lock up some of the players who are about to hit the market.

There are options when it comes to freeing up cap space to sign Bud Dupree, but fans and staff members may not be on board with all of them.

Mark Barron and Vance McDonald are certainly cut options this offseason. They are both players with limited dead cap hits but would add nearly $11 million in cap savings if the Steelers were to cut ties with them. While Barron seems like a no-brainer to be cut loose, the Steelers are thin at tight end, and Vance had a very good season with Ben Roethlisberger in 2018. The Steelers may look to restructure him instead.

Anthony Chickillo and Ramon Foster are two other options that could net the Steelers $9 million in cap space this offseason if they decide to part ties with both players.

Another option that wouldn’t be popular among fans or staff would be to cut Pro Bowl Center Maurkice Pouncey. Pouncey has been a terrific player for the Steelers over the past decade, but this season was his worst to date, and he was a liability on offense.

It’s never easy to cut loose a player who has been so good for the franchise, but Pouncey’s departure would save the Steelers $13 million over the next two seasons. In his place, Pittsburgh could choose to lock up backup B.J. Finney at a much cheaper rate.

As always, restructuring contracts is always an option to free up cap space, but it doesn’t come without consequences. If the Steelers are forced to backload some contracts they could be in the same situation again next year or the year after.

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If the Steelers really want to keep Bud Dupree (and they do) there are ways of making that happen. While having Dupree stick around would be best for the franchise in the immediate future, it’s hard to tell how is massive cap number he will no doubt receive will affect Pittsburgh down the road.