There’s no way of getting around the fact that NFL rosters are cyclical in nature. Every year at a minimum hundreds upon hundreds of new players under the labor market for just 32 NFL teams, each of whom field 63 players per season, plus those on injured reserve.
With hundreds of players drafted every year and just as many if not more coming in as undrafted free agents, it’s inevitable that some of the 2000-plus players with NFL contracts from the season before are going to lose their spots. Some teams see far more turnover than others on a regular basis.
As we get close to the draft, I want to do some risk assessment for the Pittsburgh Steelers’ roster based on their current needs and how they have handled them in free agency, compared to how they typically go about handling their business in the draft.
Asset: OLB Bud Dupree
Roster Vulnerability: Zero
Role Vulnerability: Low
Before anybody gets their hopes up, let’s just get out of the way the fact that there is virtually no chance that Bud Dupree is not on the Steelers’ roster in 2018. It would take a major injury, a crime committed, or something in that vein to cause that to happen.
Chance are very good that he will remain the starter as well. Excellent, really. The only real possibility for that to change is if the Steelers draft a pass-rusher such as Lorenzo Carter in the first round, and even then he would likely have to gradually earn his playing time over the course of the season, as Dupree did during his own rookie year.
The reality certainly seems to be that the teams genuinely believes in Dupree and the hope that he can deliver more than he has up to this point in his career. Although he is coming off a career-best six sacks, he should be capable of reaching double digits, and perhaps, the thinking goes, he can do that this year with a healthy season.
We don’t actually have to limit our discussion entirely to the 2018 season I suppose, however, and so if we do take a broader view, it’s much more conceivable that Dupree loses his starting job to a hypothetical 2018 rookie like Carter or Sam Hubbard.
When we’re talking about draft impact, we could also be very legitimately talking about Dupree’s long-term future, as it is quite possible—increasingly so—that the Steelers wait until after the draft to make a decision on whether or not to pick up his fifth-year option.
Could they really decide whether or not to do so based on whom they draft? It’s certainly possible, though it would seem a bit out of the team’s style. Not picking up the option doesn’t guarantee that he won’t be on the roster in 2019 either.