Anybody who has been following along so far this offseason should not be surprised, but Pro Football Focus was not a fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ decision to place the franchise tag on Bud Dupree, the sixth-year outside linebacker how posted his first season with double-digit sacks in his career in 2019.
The site has put up a number of articles over the course of the winter making its case against the Steelers committing what turned out to be in the ballpark of $16 million to a pass rusher whom they view as average at best, at one point arguing that they should instead use that money to go after Hunter Henry, who also would later be franchise tagged.
PFF is running a ‘live grade dealer’, in which they make an attempt to judge and classify each deal that goes down. The Steelers’ tagging of Dupree is the only move from Pittsburgh’s end that they have gotten to so far. They graded it as ‘Below Average’.
There is no denying that Dupree turned a corner during the 2019 season. He earned career-high marks in PFF grade, total pressures, sacks and forced fumbles, but the extent of his improvement was overblown. Dupree took advantage of pursuit opportunities following pressure from teammates and unblocked looks at the quarterback; he feasted on lesser tackles such as Andre Smith, Trent Scott, Justin McCray and J’Marcus Webb; and he didn’t pressure the quarterback on a more consistent basis than he did in previous seasons. With the Steelers in one of the tightest cap situations in the NFL and already heavily invested in players like Stephon Tuitt and Cameron Heyward, not to mention a T.J. Watt extension looming on the horizon, using over $15 million in cap space to hold on to Dupree in 2020 is not ideal.
It’s worth noting that other deals they considered to be in the same range were the Baltimore Ravens and the New York Giants placing their franchise tags on Matthew Judon and Leonard Williams, respectively. Deals for Jason Pierre-Paul, Leonard Floyd, Dante Fowler, and other edge defenders were placed in the same territory.
Even though the Steelers tagged Dupree, they have, through releases and restructures, still managed to retain Zach Banner, Matt Feiler, Mike Hilton, and Kameron Canaday, while adding Derek Watt as a free agent, though they have also lost Javon Hargrave, Sean Davis, Tyler Matakevich, and B.J. Finney, while Ramon Foster retired.