With Monday being June 15, that now means that the Pittsburgh Steelers have exactly one month to sign franchise tagged outside linebacker Bud Dupree to a multiyear contract or extension. After 4:00 p.m., New York time, on July 15, Dupree may only sign a one-year contract with the Steelers for the 2020 season, and such contract cannot be extended until after the club’s last regular season game. Will the Steelers ultimately get a new deal worked out with Dupree prior to July 15 at 4:00 p.m. EST? We’ll see, but as of right now there’s no real indication that will happen.
In mid-March, the Steelers placed the franchise tag on Dupree shortly before free agency got underway. That tag came with a price tag of $15.828 million and Dupree, the Steelers first-round selection in the 2015 NFL Draft out of Kentucky, has long since signed it. While the Steelers have claimed all offseason that their goal this summer is to sign Dupree to a long-term contract after placing the franchise tag on him, such an offer would likely need have around $17 million in annual earnings and include a 2020 total amount of around $26 million for the outside linebacker to accept it.
While the contract I speculated Dupree might be looking for from the Steelers this offseason several weeks ago is more than fair for both sides, the ongoing uncertainty concerning the potential impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the NFL’s 2021 salary cap will likely make it even more difficult for the team to commit that kind of money to their outside linebacker prior to training camp getting underway. If, however, the NFL and NFLPA can come to some sort of agreement within the next several weeks that results in a plan that ensures the 2021 salary cap figure will be an increase over the 2020 number, regardless of whatever potential financial losses happen this upcoming season due to the pandemic, that would help the Steelers have a better idea on if Dupree can fit within a future multiyear budget.
Complicating matters with a Dupree contract extension happening within the next month is the fact that the Steelers undoubtedly hope to sign defensive lineman Cameron Heyward to a very lucrative long-term contract extension prior to the start of the 2020 regular season. While there’s no NFL deadline attached to a Heyward extension this offseason, the Steelers have a long tradition of not liking to discuss contracts with their players once a regular season is underway. Barring the Steelers bending their own franchise rules this summer, one must believe that Heyward will ultimately sign a long-term contract extension sometime close to the start of the 2020 regular season.
Should the Steelers ultimately not sign Dupree to an extension prior to the July 15 deadline, he would then be on track to become an unrestricted free agent at the start of the 2021 NFL league year in March. While the Steelers would have the option of placing the franchise tag on Dupree a second consecutive offseason should they fail to get him signed long-term prior to July 15, it’s hard to imagine such a transaction happening next February or early March and especially with fellow outside linebacker T.J. Watt being due for a new a very lucrative contract extension next summer.
With it seemingly looking like the Steelers virtual offseason program has now ended, or will end at the conclusion of this week, we’re unlikely to hear anything from Dupree or his side concerning contract extension talks prior to the team reporting for training camp, which right now is reportedly scheduled to be July 22, a full week after the July 15 deadline.
While a lot certainly can happen within the next month, at this point it would appear as though an extension for Dupree by July 15 shouldn’t be expected to be consummated. We’ll stay tuned just the same as much stranger things have happened in the past.
Dupree had a career season in 2019. He finished it with a career-high 11.5 sacks, a single season high 16 tackles for a loss in 2019, ranking him tied for fifth in the NFL last season. Dupree also added four forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries in 2019. He has recorded at least four sacks in each of his first five seasons with the Steelers for a total of 31.5 career sacks.