The roller coaster of a career that Bud Dupree has been on is impressive to say the least. Long hyped as a draft bust (which was unfair even as his production was closer to average than bust), Dupree finally found his footing and had his best year as a pro last year. He was quickly handed the franchise tag and seems likely to play on the tag this year unless a new deal can be hammered out.
That’s just the issue, as once the July deadline passes, Dupree will have to play on the one-year tag. Assuming he does play on the tag, his odds of being with the team next year shrinks. It would be hard to give him the tag again and negotiating a long-term deal before free agency is easier said than done. More than likely, if there isn’t an extension before this season, it will be Dupree’s last.
The Steelers seem understanding of this, which likely aided in their decision to draft Alex Highsmith. While Highsmith isn’t going to contend for a starting spot this year, he has the talent to be a starter for the Steelers. In case Dupree leaves next year, the Steelers are better prepared to transition from him (unlike this year where there were little options to replace him).
Could a deal be worked out before this year and this speculation dies? Sure, but the fact there has been little updates on this situation isn’t a positive thing. Assuming a deal can’t be agreed on, then Dupree is likely to test and leave via free agency.
While all of these players have proven to be valuable assets to the Steelers, each of them seems to be entering the twilight of their Steelers career. For some, it comes down to cost. Others, it comes down to being ready to replace them. No matter what though, these players are most likely to be wearing other uniforms next year.