Should Steelers OLB Bud Dupree be paid as a defensive end?

The Pittsburgh Steelers gave Bud Dupree the franchise tag this offseason, but it’s apparently not enough. Should he be paid as a defensive end?

The Steelers had a decision to make this offseason when it came to the future of Bud Dupree. After not being able to come to terms on a long term deal (something we all could have assumed would happen), Pittsburgh elected to hand Dupree $15.828 million on the franchise tag to retain his services for the 2020 season.

The problem is, that didn’t cut it for Dupree. Recently, the fifth-year outside linebacker filed a grievance with the NFLPA that he should be tagged as a defensive end, not an outside linebacker, Brooke Pryor of ESPN reported.

Though we may disagree with his motives, Dupree raises a good point. There is a much more modern term we use in football media that the NFL hasn’t quite caught onto yet: Edge defenders. The T.J. Watt and Dupree are edge defenders. They specialize at lining up on the edge and getting after the quarterback.

This is a universal term that should be used for both 3-4 outside linebackers and 4-3 defensive ends. If you line up on the edge of the defensive line, this should be the label we use. Stephon Tuitt (6’6”, 303 lbs) and Yannick Ngakoue (6’2”, 246 lbs) should not both be classified as defensive ends. Do you get what the problem is here?

On any 4-3 team, Dupree would be playing defensive end, not linebacker. His role wouldn’t change much. Dupree rushed the quarterback 542 times on passing snaps as opposed to dropping into coverage just 48 times, according to Pro Football Focus.

Would the Steelers have tagged Dupree if they knew he would file a grievance?

Now, don’t get me wrong. Just because I agree with Dupree that he should be classified as a defensive end, it certainly doesn’t mean that I agree with how much money he is supposed to be earning in 2020.

I know that the Steelers needed to make that decision to assure that they didn’t have a major hole at right edge next year. But would they make the same decision all over again if they knew that Dupree was going to file a grievance?

If classified as a defensive end, Dupree would make $17.788 million on the franchise tag this season. It may not seem like a big increase from the $15.828 he was set to receive, but for a team in poor financial situation, every dollar matters.

Think of it this way. On the new defensive end tag, Dupree would be getting paid more than All-Pro pass rushers like Cameron Jordan and Chandler Jones, and more than Pro Bowl players like Danielle Hunter and Robert Quinn.

If the Steelers knew they would be required to pay him nearly $18 million for the 2020 season, maybe they never would have tagged him in the first place. After all, they probably could have brought in a high-profile free agent like Jadeveon Clowney for possibly even cheaper.

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Bud Dupree is a solid football player, and he should classify as a defensive end based on the full-time edge defender position he plays for the Steelers. However, I’m not in favor of Pittsburgh paying top-dollar to a good, but not a great player. $17.788 million is an awful lot of money for a player who hasn’t even made a Pro Bowl in his first five seasons.