As you’re no doubt already aware, the Pittsburgh Steelers failed to come to an agreement with sixth-year outside linebacker Bud Dupree on a contract extension. As a player who was franchise tagged, this means that the two parties can no longer negotiate toward a multi-year extension until their 2020 season is concluded. Having already signed the franchise tag, his only recourse right now is the hopes that his grievance over the specific tag given to him will earn him a couple million more.
A first-round pick in 2015, Dupree had an important ‘breakout’ season last year, one that was a long time coming, in which he recorded 10 and a half sacks, forcing four fumbles, recovering two of them. He also recorded a career-high 69 tackles with 16 for a loss, tying a career-high with three passes defensed.
It was the sort of statistical output that he needed in order to keep the Steelers’ interests, frankly. It’s hard to say if the front office would have been able to justify giving him the franchise tag with another six-sack season as his peak. While he put up borderline-Pro Bowl numbers, however, it wasn’t enough to get the two sides to agree to a more long-term pact, in spite of the fact that both parties said that it was a priority.
What this means is that Dupree will play the 2020 season in a contract year and will be scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent in March, for the first time in his career. Many expect this to mean this is his final season in Pittsburgh.
An assessment from Gregg Rosenthal seems to agree. He recently ranked the 13 players who were franchise tagged but did not reach a long-term deal before the deadline (only two contracts were completed, Chris Jones and Derrick Henry), and Dupree was toward the end of the list, 10th:
Dupree’s 2019 season came mostly out of nowhere after a star-crossed first four years with the Steelers. His breakout season reminds me of Dee Ford’s 2018 campaign, and it could be tough for the Steelers to fully buy in after seeing all of Dupree’s ups and downs. That’s especially true with so many other big defensive contracts (Stephon Tuitt, Joe Haden, Steven Nelson) and likely future commitments (Cameron Heyward in 2021 and T.J. Watt and Minkah Fitzpatrick further down the road) to consider.
I don’t think there is going to be much disagreement here. it would be disappointing to lose Dupree without an adequate successor, but they have so many players on that side of the ball that they will need to invest in that it’s hard to justify that commitment to a player who has been inconsistent over his career.