Five years into his career, the debate still rages regarding just who Bud Dupree is as a player. While nobody is necessarily contending that he is on the precipice of breaking out as an elite edge defender worthy of All-Pro recognition, there is legitimate discussion being had about, basically, the ability to predict his success based on last year’s numbers.
The 2019 season represented a clear highwater mark for Dupree, playing under his fifth-year option and knowing that he was slated to hit unrestricted free agency, failing the franchise tag of a long-term extension being worked out with the Pittsburgh Steelers beforehand. He has admitted that he did think about that at times.
No matter the reasons, the fact is that he did produce, statistically. He posted career highs nearly across the board, headed by 11.5 sacks. He also had 68 tackles with 16 tackles for loss, plus 17 quarterback hits. Additionally, he recorded four forced fumbles and recovered two of them himself, adding three passes defensed.
Those are strong numbers on the back of a trading card, and I think there is a general agreement in acknowledging that he has developed into a strong run defenders, but it’s been observed that he still lacks a consistent win rate or pressure rate as a pass rusher.
Nevertheless, he clearly raised his stock in 2019, which is why ESPN chose him for recognition in such category for a recent article selecting breakout players for each team. The site’s Steelers beat writer had the following to say:
Playing out his fifth-year option, Dupree exceeded expectations. Starting every game, he more than doubled his sack total from 2018 and set a career high with 11.5. The 2015 first-round pick was inconsistent during his first four seasons, but with his standout season opposite of Pro Bowler T.J. Watt, Dupree is a likely franchise-tag candidate. Both coach Mike Tomlin and owner Art Rooney II say retaining Dupree is a top priority. Watt agreed, saying: “If anyone asks me that — it’s way above my pay grade — but if anybody asks me that, I’ll 100% advocate for Bud Dupree.”
In terms of practicalities, it’s hard to find a better alternative for the Steelers right now than getting Dupree booked for 2020, one way or another. They’re not going to find a better player to bookend with T.J. Watt this spring, and frankly, they have a limited championship window.
It may well mean overpaying, even in relative terms compared to the rest of the market, but sometimes that’s the price you have to pay. Because right now, the alternative is some combination of Anthony Chickillo, Ola Adeniyi, and Tuzar Skipper.