One thing the Pittsburgh Steelers know on an organizational level is that they both want and are confident that they will be able to retain Bud Dupree, the five-year veteran outside linebacker, for the 2020 season. What is less certain is by what means they will approach that priority.
“I think the key thing is we want to make sure we keep Bud here for next season”, Art Rooney told Bob Labriola earlier this week. “I don’t really want to speculate on the contract situation and how we’ll resolve it, other than to say we’re optimistic that we’ll get Bud back for another season”.
To say that they are optimistic he will be back seems to be a more emphatic statement than they would normally give in such situations. That is a good sign for those who are on board with keeping him around, though there are still many against giving him a ton of money, for sure.
But how? Rooney didn’t want to go into details, but it’s clear he considers the franchise tag route to be very much open. It’s quite possible that they tag him and then sign him to a long-term contract. I’m not sure they’ve ever tagged a player without the intention of working out a long-term deal.
To give Dupree the franchise tag, however, will take some maneuvering with the salary cap. The tag for an edge defender will top $16 million. They could lower that with an extension later, but they would need that space to give it to him at the start of the new league year.
The last time they placed the franchise tag on somebody, he never showed up. That would be former running back Le’Veon Bell, who was tagged in both 2017 and 2018. He did report shortly before the season starting in 2017, but chose to stay away in 2018. In both cases, the Steelers worked hard to try to get him signed to a long-term deal, but he continually balked at the relatively low at-signing fully guaranteed money and the lack of at-signing guarantees beyond the first year of the contract.
That experience, however, doesn’t concern Rooney. “I think the situation with Le’Veon was unusual. We’ve used franchise tags many different ways around different times, and other teams have as well”, he said. “I think when you look at the overall landscape, the situation with Le’Veon was pretty unusual, so that doesn’t really affect our thinking on what we might do next”.
It’s worth noting that Rooney has also confirmed, in an earlier interview, that the teams do already know what the 2020 salary cap will be, but they can’t discuss that until it’s officially announced. Given that he knows what the cap will be, and he is optimistic about retaining Dupree, he must have a pretty good idea of what moves will need to be made to make that happen.