Explaining The Fifth-Year Option Process Of Steelers OLB Bud Dupree

In addition to deciding whether or not to sign running back Le’Veon Bell to a long-term contract extension, or place the franchise tag on him, the Pittsburgh Steelers will also need to make another decision by just after the draft takes place on the future of outside linebacker Bud Dupree, the team’s former first round draft pick in 2015. That decision revolves around whether or not to pick up his fifth-year option that’s available this offseason as a former first-round draft pick.

After reading a few comments and receiving a few emails on the Dupree fifth-year option decision, it’s clear that several people aren’t entirely clear about how the process works. In this post, I will attempt to clear up all misconceptions related to Dupree and his potential fifth-year option.

What is Dupree’s fifth-year option? – Dupree originally signed a four-year contract in 2015 and that deal is currently set to expire after the 2018 season. Dupree’s option year is for the 2019 season and thus the Steelers must identify this offseason whether or not they want to exercise it. There a lot of people who seem to think that 2018 is Dupree’s option year, but that is not the case. Dupree is set to earn a base salary in 2018 of $1,692,585 and picking up or not picking up his fifth-year option will not change that.

What is the time frame in which Dupree’s fifth-year option needs to be picked up? – The fifth-year option exercise period for first-round selections from the 2015 NFL Draft began on January 1, 2018. To exercise the fifth-year option, teams must give written notice to the player on or after January 1, but prior to May 3, which is just after the 2018 NFL Draft takes place.

How much will Dupree’s fifth-year option be? – With players selected outside of the top 10 (picks 11-32), the fifth-year option salary is the average of the third through twenty-fifth highest salaries at a player’s position. While the actual number for Dupree has not yet been announced, it’s likely to be around $9.5 million. Once again, this is the amount that Dupree would be scheduled to make in 2019 if the Steelers pick up his fifth-year option prior to May 3, 2018.

What sort of guarantees come with picking up a fifth-year option?  – The fifth year is guaranteed for injury only when the option is exercised. The injury guarantee would only kick in if a player was unable to play the following season after getting hurt. However, the option year becomes fully guaranteed on the first day of the league year in the fifth contract year, which in Dupree’s case would be in early March of 2019. Steelers inside linebacker Ryan Shazier is now headed for a fully guaranteed fifth-year option salary of $8.718 million in 2018 being as he suffered a serious spine injury during the 2017 season.

Can the Steelers get out of Dupree’s fifth-year option after picking it up? – If Dupree is not seriously injured during the 2018 season and does not play up to the Steelers liking, the team can releases him prior to his option-year becoming fully guaranteed on the first day of the 2019 league year. Such a move would absolve them from paying him the fifth-year option amount. It is very rare for teams to dump players after picking up their fifth-year options but such a thing did happen just a few years ago with the New York Jets and former first-round draft pick, outside linebacker Quinton Coples. In fact, the Jets ultimately waived Coples well before the 2015 regular season ended. Also, after picking up the fifth-year option on quarterback Robert Griffin III ahead of the 2015 season, the Washington Redskins ultimately waived him just a few days prior to it becoming fully guaranteed in March of 2016.

What are the drawbacks to releasing a player on a fifth-year option prior to it becoming fully guaranteed? – In short, if Dupree were to have his fifth-year option picked up this offseason and he ultimately be waived ahead of the start of the 2019 league year, he would then become a street free agent. That would mean that the Steelers would not receive any compensatory draft pick compensation in the formula should Dupree go on to sign with another team after being waived by the Steelers.

What if the Steelers don’t pick up Dupree’s fifth-year option and he goes on to have a great 2018 season? – That would be a decent problem to have on one hand because of his production. With that said, Dupree would then be scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent at the start of the 2019 league year and to prevent him from completely shopping his services the Steelers would need to place the franchise tag on him and that amount would surely be much higher than what his fifth-year option amount would have been.

What will the Steelers ultimately decide to do with Dupree? – That’s a great question and you could make good arguments as to why they should and shouldn’t pick up his fifth-year option this offseason. As we saw a few years ago, the Steelers chose not to pick up the fifth-year option on outside linebacker Jarvis Jones and that ultimately was the right decision. As for Dupree, while he’s a much better player than Jones ever was, he still has yet to live up to his full potential and especially as a pass rusher. Sure, Dupree had 6 sacks in 2017, but not a one of them would be considered a very high quality sack. Personally, I think the Steelers should gamble on Dupree and pick up his fifth-year option and then see how he plays in 2018. Should Dupree not take another step forward in his development during the 2018 season, the Steelers can cut him just prior to the start of the 2019 league year and be done with him, assuming he doesn’t suffer a serious injury during the season.

When will the Steelers make a decision on Dupree’s fifth-year option? – This usually takes place in the month of April with the Steelers and ahead of the draft. Last year it was reported on April 24 that the Steelers had picked up Shazier’s fifth-year option. Prior to that, the Steelers picked up the fifth-year options on both defensive end Cameron Heyward and guard David DeCastro a few weeks prior to that year’s draft taking place.

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