Football Outsiders recently suggested a bold offseason move for each NFL team via espn.com and for the Pittsburgh Steelers they have the team letting outside linebacker Bud Dupree walk off via free agency as their choice.
Below is the reason that Rivers McCown gave for that being the boldest move the Steelers could make this offseason:
The Steelers already made their bold move last season, when they sent this year’s first-round draft pick to Miami for Minkah Fitzpatrick and revitalized their defense in the process. Getting Ben Roethlisberger back is (A) a fait accompli and (B) not something that the Steelers are going to try to upgrade on even if the quarterback isn’t 2015 Roethlisberger anymore.
So the bold move, then, is about looking at Pittsburgh’s salary-cap scenario (at just $1.5 million under the cap as of this writing, it doesn’t have much room) and taking a stand on its free agents. Dupree had a monster season, but a lot of that came with better coverage than he’d seen in his first four years in the NFL. SIS tracked his hurries and pressures, and his hurry rate of 5.7% in 2019 was actually lower than it had been in any of his previous three seasons. His pressure rate of 10.1% was on par with his 10.0% in 2018 and 11.8% in 2017. The only difference was 11.5 sacks versus his usual five or six.
Dupree is going to ask for a big contract. Pittsburgh should nod and let him find it elsewhere. He’s not that kind of pass-rusher.
Would not placing the franchise tag on Dupree and thus letting him ride off into the free agency sunset really be the boldest offseason move the Steelers could make? I suppose and especially since everyone and their brother expects the former first-round draft pick out of Kentucky to receive the franchise tag from the Steelers by the March 12 deadline, which is now almost one full week away.
Should Dupree not ultimately be franchise tagged in the next week, and not signed to a long-term contract extension instead, he’ll be as good as gone to the highest bidder in the first week to 10 days of free agency, which starts two weeks from today.
The Steelers losing Dupree to free agency would leave the team with a gaping hole at right outside linebacker position as the depth chart at the position currently includes two very inexperienced players in Olasunkanmi Adeniyi and Tuzar Skipper and Anthony Chickillo, who is expected to be jettisoned in the next two weeks as part of a cap-creation move. In short, the Steelers would likely be forced to address the outside linebacker early in this year’s draft should Dupree not be retained in some fashion in the next week.
Prior to placing the franchise tag on Dupree, the Steelers will need to clear quite a bit of salary cap space. Such clearing of salary cap space should start happening very soon regardless as the team doesn’t have much room at the time of this post.
Should Dupree ultimately receive the franchise tag from the Steelers in the next week, the team will then have until the July deadline to get him signed to a contract extension.