Needless to say, the Pittsburgh Steelers envisioned Bud Dupree as a future starter when they used their first-round draft pick to bring him in out of Kentucky in 2015. While he did reach that level, it took him longer than many anticipated to reach the highs that we saw from him a season ago, which has now put him in the position to command a high-dollar salary next year.
Currently scheduled to play under a $15 million franchise tag this season, his sixth in the NFL, he knows what this means, which is that it could very well—realistically, almost assuredly will—be his last with the Steelers on the eve of unrestricted free agency.
“I would say it’s bittersweet”, Dupree told reporters about playing out this season under the franchise tag and the implications that brings for the future. “It’s also a blessing to be able to get to this point in my career, to still be here, to work through adversity, work hard, and just be in this position that I am today”.
“I’m in the driver’s seat of my career right now, so I’ll go out and just play the best I can play, and everything will play its place at the end of the year”, he went on. “I’ll be able to control my own destiny. But for right now, I’ve jut got to go out and just keep working hard at whatever I do, keep trying to get better and better each day, and keep having my teammates like we have to compete against each other. It just makes us that much better. But at the end of the day, it’s a blessing. It’s a business, too, so it goes both ways”.
It is exceedingly unlikely—virtually impossible—that the Steelers would be able to work out a deal for Dupree that would allow them to keep him under contract at a salary cap charge they can afford in 2021, given that they are already likely substantially over what the cap will be next year, and that they doesn’t even including Cameron Heyward being on the books, among many others whom they might also wish to try to re-sign.
Dupree is coming off a career year in which he recorded 11.5 sacks with 19 tackles for loss, with four forced fumbles, two of which he recovered. His 68 tackles, as with the other statistics, all represent career-highs, and the game tape, too, backs up the reality that he took his game to another level.
He looks to build off of that even further this year just in time to cash in on the open market, at which point he will still be a relatively fresh 28 years old. While he will not be hitting $30 million per season or anything like that, he is going to be quite wealthy come March. But before then, he knows there is business to take care of.