In a little more than 8 weeks from today the 2019 NFL league year will begin. That means we have a little more than 8 weeks to speculate about what the Pittsburgh Steelers might ultimately do with wide receiver Antonio Brown as he’s due a $2.5 million roster a few days after the start of the new league year, which is also the first day that trades can be made. The start of the new league year also has other significance this year when it comes to the Steelers as that’s the day that the fifth-year option the team picked up last offseason on outside linebacker Bud Dupree becomes fully guaranteed.
In case you haven’t kept up with Dupree’s contract situation, he’s now set to earn $9.232 million in 2019 after the Steelers picked up his fifth-year option last summer. The only way that Dupree won’t see that money is if the Steelers cut him prior to the start of the new league year in March or they can somehow magically convince him to take less. As we sit here halfway through the month of January, neither or those two options seem very likely to happen.
While Dupree did show some slight improvement in 2018 on his way to registering 42 total tackles, 5.5 sacks, 3 passes defensed, an interception and a forced fumble, it’s still hard to envision him ever producing much more than that, or like a player earning over $9 million a season should. In short, Dupree is who he is as a player at this point and thus his ceiling has likely been achieved.
Dupree, however, does seemingly have some job security in Pittsburgh right now because of the fact that the Steelers really don’t have any legitimate experienced upgraded options behind him on their roster currently. While the Steelers did have rookie outside linebacker Olasunkanmi Adeniyi to end the season, he only played 9 defensive snaps after finally being activated from the Reserve/Injured list. Additionally, while Anthony Chickillo might be back in 2019 as a re-signed unrestricted free agent, he’s merely a backup and the same likely goes for Keion Adams, who has yet to play a single defensive snap since being selected in the seventh-round of the 2017 NFL Draft.
In short, and until the free agent signing period and the draft arrives, the Steelers have Dupree and T.J. Watt at outside linebacker with a nothing but question marks behind them. Unfortunately, the start of free agency and the draft comes after Dupree’s fifth-year option becomes fully guaranteed and thus that’s a legitimate reason as to why he’s likely going to stay in Pittsburgh at least one more season.
If the Steelers are smart, they’ll not only address the outside linebacker position during free agency, but during the first few rounds of the draft as well. Assuming Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert takes that advice, he then needs to make sure he signs a few more intriguing edge-rushers as undrafted free agents and that might require a few higher-than-normal signing bonuses.
Dupree has started 39 games since arriving in 2015 as the Steelers first-round draft pick and barring a surprise cutting in the next eight weeks, or an offseason injury of some sorts, you can probably expect the Kentucky product to start a 40th game for the Black and Gold in September and quite possibly several more past that.