The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: Outside linebacker Bud Dupree will be a member of the Steelers in 2020.
Explanation: Now that we are in the offseason, this is the biggest question out there for the team, short of, will Ben Roethlisberger return and be the same player he was before the injury? Following a breakout season in 2019, Bud Dupree is on the verge of becoming an unrestricted free agent. Mike Tomlin made it clear that keeping him in Pittsburgh is a priority, but teams don’t always get to achieve their priorities.
The Steelers enter the 2020 season in a cap crunch, make no mistake about that, but they also have the tools to create a fair amount of cap space. There are some relatively easy decisions, like releasing Anthony Chickillo and Mark Barron, a pair of reserve linebackers whose releases combined would provide over $10 million in cap relief prior to displacement.
There are other candidates for release as well, and contracts that can be restructured, such as that of Ben Roethlisberger and Stephon Tuitt. Under an extension, Cameron Heyward’s cap hit could be lowered, especially if he understands that it’s in an effort to keep Dupree around.
The easiest path toward retaining Dupree is to slap the franchise tag on him, and that’s fully what should be expected for them to do. He’s already gone on record to state that he wouldn’t approach the tag in the same way that Le’Veon Bell did.
For as much as the front office may want to keep Dupree around, they are also obligated to take a long-view approach, and it may not be realistic to expect themselves to be able to not only re-sign Dupree and also lock up T.J. Watt long-term, either this offseason or next. In effect, they will have to choose one over the other, and frankly, the choice is an easy one.
It can also still be a priority for the team to try to re-sign Dupree while also maintaining certain reservations. He had a breakout year, but that was after four relatively pedestrian seasons, and who’s to say which is the more likely in 2020 and beyond? They have to set some sort of limit on what they are willing to spend.
There is also the possibility that the Steelers could tag him and then ultimately trade him to another team. We have seen multiple franchise-tagged players traded in recent years, and the Steelers have been doing things in recent seasons that they have not been known to do in the past. It could be a way to recoup some draft capital as well, especially if they sense that they will not be able to complete a deal.