What should the Steelers do with Bud Dupree?

Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Bud Dupree (48) Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Bud Dupree (48) Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports /

The Steelers have a big list of off-season items but the biggest may be what they can/should do with Bud Dupree.

Bud Dupree had a bit of a slow start to his career as far as box scores are concerned but, the stat sheet does not always tell the full story of a player. Dupree had shown the athleticism and power that the team saw when they made him their first-round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft.

The team showed patience in Dupree’s development as he amassed just 14.5 sacks in his first three seasons. He did have some injury trouble in 2016 that surely impacted those numbers, but the sacks just were not there.

They then showed another vote of confidence in their former first-rounder by picking up his fifth-year option in April 2018 just before the 2018 season. Fans were not impressed with his 2018 season of just 5.5 sacks and started to question the front office for picking up his option.

Dupree was always an extremely solid run defender thanks to his raw power and speed on the edge. That power and speed had him rack up 13 QB hits in 2018 but he always seemed to be just late in getting the sack.

That pressure may not show up in the stat sheet but he was getting to opposing quarterbacks with more than just sacks. In 2019, his stats finally caught up with his play on the field and he amassed 11.5 sacks and 17 QB hits on the year and formed one of the best edge duos in the league along with T.J. Watt.

Dupree was well on his way to another dominant season on the stat sheets having 8 sacks in 11 games played. However, late in the second half of a Week 12 game against Baltimore, Dupree tore his ACL and his season was over.

He played 2020 on the franchise tag, making this a contract year for him. The timing could not have been worse for his market.

The Steelers finally saw on the field what they knew they had in Dupree when they took him in 2015. The problem now is what should they do with his expiring deal?

There are pros and cons to bringing Dupree back. The pros are that he and Watt would remain one of the best edge-rushing duos in the NFL and they keep the defense mostly intact from 2020. The cons are obviously the money it will take could strap them in the future for guys like Minkah Fitzpatrick and T.J. Watt and it could impact guys in this off-season at other areas of need.

The biggest con is that Dupree takes more attention off of Watt than any other edge rusher the Steelers currently have to put opposite him. If Dupree is gone, teams can focus on Watt much more until guys like Alex Highsmith and Ola Adeniyi prove they can consistently beat linemen and apply pressure.

Steelers can’t afford Dupree

The Steelers could franchise tag him for a second straight year but that price, according to Over The Cap, is expected to be over $15.5M for a linebacker and over $17.7M for a DE, which Dupree wanted to be paid as instead of the linebacker amount in 2019 and could petition for again if tagged for a second straight year.

The team could try and craft a fair, long-term deal for Dupree that also doesn’t strap them for cap space but his projected market value, according to Spotrac, is $18.2M. This number is likely too rich for the Steelers’ blood their current cap situation.

Pittsburgh could always try to offer him a smaller deal than $18.2M per year but Dupree likely wants as much financial security as possible. The ACL injury may impact his market enough that the Steelers should at least attempt to sign him closer to the $15.828M he made on the tag in 2020 but he is unlikely to accept due to ACL injuries being less and less worrisome.

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On one hand, Pittsburgh should do all they can to try and keep Dupree around, at least for the 2021 season. However, he deserves his big payday and it will be one the Steelers just don’t seem able to afford.