Bud Dupree is the biggest free agent on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ to-do list. Though the team has called him a “priority,” Kevin Colbert admits the salary cap will be a factor in trying to retain him.
Sitting down with Steelers.com’s Missi Matthews, Colbert explained the situation.
“As we’re putting together the free agency plan, the draft plan, it all comes together and we see what we can do from a salary cap standpoint,” Colbert said. “That’s the process we’ll be in throughout the whole draft. We may have to make some decisions prior to that.”
Colbert gave his boilerplate “the tag is an option” line too.
“The franchise tag is always available to us. We’ll never say we wouldn’t use it. We’ll never say we would use it. The first person who would find that out is the player himself. But we’re not at that point yet nor do we need to be. We have until March 10th. We’ll see how things ago.”
That’s a bit of contrast to what Mike Tomlin and Art Rooney II have said about Dupree. Their statements made it seem certain the organization was going to do everything it can to hold onto him. But Colbert generally approaches these things in pragmatic and diplomatic fashion. And he’s right, there are serious financial hurdles that have to be solved for them to tag Dupree. The tag will cost about $16 million in 2020. A long-term deal will average out slightly north of that.
Colbert did make it clear Dupree, and it’s obvious, had one heck of a season. He was asked about Tomlin and Rooney’s “priority” quotes and his evaluation of Dupree’s year.
“Bud did that to himself with his play. Bud had a great season. He’s established himself as a significant starter in the National Football League. He will have value not only here here and around the rest of the league. And we recognize that.”
He had a career year in 2019, racking up 11.5 sacks. His previous high in sacks was just six set in 2017. As we noted yesterday, he was a complete player, logging over 90% of the defense’s snaps while playing great run defense and showing fanatical effort.
If the team wants to pick up Vance McDonald’s option, which Colbert seemed to hint at, it will be even more difficult to fit a Dupree tag under the cap. But in speaking with reporters, Colbert expressed optimism for 2020 not only because of Ben Roethlisberger’s return but the strong state of the defense. It’s hard to see the team letting Dupree and NT Javon Hargrave walk and starting from scratch at both positions.
The safe assumption remains that Dupree will be a Steeler in 2020. It just won’t be easy – or cheap – to make it happen.