The Pittsburgh Steelers signed two outside unrestricted free agents to contracts this week and with inside linebacker Jon Bostic and safety Morgan Burnett now both in the fold, the team is likely done adding above minimum salary players for a while. Sure, the Steelers could potentially add a special teams demon that plays either safety, linebacker or wide receiver ahead of the draft, but even if such moves are made, they will likely barely move the salary cap needle. So, with free agency practically over for the Steelers, what’s next for them?
Obviously, the Steelers will continue to make their draft preparations from now through the end of April and that means more trips to pro days in addition to bringing players to Pittsburgh for team visits. As always, we’ll be tracking all of that pre-draft activity on the site for you just as we have for the last several years.
In addition to preparing for the 2018 NFL Draft, however, the Steelers still have one pretty big decision to make by May 3 and they are expected to make it prior to that date. That decision revolves around whether or not to pick up the fifth-year option on outside linebacker Bud Dupree, the Steelers first-round selection in 2015 NFL Draft.
The annual fifth-year option exercise period began on January 1 and as previously stated, ends on May 3. Since the inception of the fifth-year option clause, the Steelers have exercised it three out of four times with inside linebacker Ryan Shazier being the last player to have his picked up just a few days prior to the 2017 NFL Draft taking place.
Prior to picking up Shazier’s fifth-year option, the Steelers also did the same with defensive end Cameron Heyward in 2014 and guard David DeCastro in 2015. The Steelers, however, chose not to pick up the fifth-year option on now former outside linebacker Jarvis Jones in 2016. While it was easy to predict that the Steelers would pick up the fifth-year options on Heyward, DeCastro and Shazier and not pick up Jones’s long before they actually were and weren’t, that isn’t necessarily the case when it comes to Dupree this year.
Should the Steelers ultimately decide to pick up Dupree’s fifth-year option it would result in him earning around $9.5 million in 2019. That fifth-year option, once picked up, is also fully guaranteed for injury only and unfortunately, we are now seeing that stipulation in full-effect this year with Shazier, who is currently sidelined indefinitely with a serious spinal injury that he suffered last season.
In his first three years in the league, Dupree has registered 90 total tackles, 14.5 sacks, 3 passes defensed and 1 forced fumble in the 38 regular season games that he’s played in. He has also only made 24 total regular season starts and has played just a little more than 2000 total regular season defensive snaps, which is not even 70% of the total amount he could have possibly played.
In short, it’s hard to go all in currently on predicting if the Steelers will ultimately pick up Dupree’s fifth-year option in the coming weeks. With that said, we should know if they will or won’t by the time to the 2018 NFL Draft gets underway in April. Should the Steelers ultimately decided against picking up Dupree’s fifth-year option in the coming weeks, it could result in the team spending an ultra-early-round draft pick once again on yet another outside linebacker.