The Pittsburgh Steelers have a business decision ahead of them. Well, they have dozens of business decisions ahead of them, technically. That’s how you run a business. But one of the big ones that they will have to start dealing with this offseason is attempting to guide the future of one of their former first-round draft picks, Bud Dupree.
The outside linebacker was drafted in the late stages of the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft and began playing immediately, registering four sacks during the first half of his rookie season, whereafter he became the starter, though he still continued to rotate.
That showed promise, but he has yet since not done a lot to build upon the player that he has been when he came into the league, and without further improvements and production, he cannot be viewed as the future for the position, only the right now.
By the middle of the Spring, the Steelers will have to decide whether or not they want to pick up Dupree’s fifth-year option on his rookie contract, which will likely come in at around $9 million or so this season. But that decision is in most cases not binding.
He is currently heading into his fourth season, and his fifth-year salary will not become guaranteed until 2019, except in the event of injury. The team can exercise his option and then choose to release him following the 2018 season if they determine that he is not going to be able to give them what they need out of the position.
Personally, I would be surprised if they do not pick up his option, in contrast to how they have approached Jarvis Jones. While there are some critics out there who attempt to maintain that Dupree is about as ineffective as their previous first-rounder from 2013, I do wonder how anybody could say that with a straight face.
While neither have been successful in creating consistent pressure, Dupree has at least gotten the sacks. Dupree had as many sacks this season as Jones had in his four-year career. Dupree has 14.5 sacks in 38 games, while Jones had six sacks in 50 games.
But he has still been far from a performer whose production justifies $9 million. He needs to put together a complete season in 2018 in order to get his career back on track, and the injuries that he has dealt with over the past two years can only work to justify so many of the issues he has had.
The Steelers have previously been known for having an eye for talent at the edge position. They have a long and storied history of success in drafting that position. Perhaps T.J. Watt can help salvage that reputation, but their other recent forays into this department have not gone as planned, and it has caused issues for their defense, both on the field and on the depth chart.