Player: Bud Dupree
Position: Outside Linebacker
Free Agent Status: Unrestricted
2020 Salary Cap Hit: $15,828,000
2020 Season Breakdown:
Coming off a career year in 2019 in which he played at a Pro Bowl level, Bud Dupree entered the 2020 season with more confidence than ever before, and it showed. While he was probably less than thrilled about playing under the franchise tag, he knew what a big season would mean.
Arguably, he did have a big year, but the problem is that he couldn’t finish it. He suffered a season-ending torn ACL in the 11th game of the year, and while Alex Highsmith filled in admirably for him, the defense was clearly not the same.
Dupree finished the year with eight sacks in 11 games, along with 15 quarterback hits, only two fewer than he had in 16 games the previous year. He didn’t have as many tackles or tackles for loss, but the defense also saw fewer plays run against his side. He also added another two forced fumbles to his resume, and two passes defensed.
In terms of rushing the passer, this was his best season from a play-to-play standpoint, posting the highest pass rush productivity grade of his career. According to Pro Football Focus, he finished with 43 total pressures, including nine sacks and nine hits.
Free Agency Outlook:
While the Steelers would theoretically love to keep Dupree young on a long-term basis, and Art Rooney II has even said as much, essentially saying not to rule out that possibility, the salary cap realities make that conversation a virtual non-starter.
One might be inclined to think that the fact he is recovering from a torn ACL will be a detriment to his open-market value, but such injuries are not nearly the deterrent for free agents that they might have been in the past. He should still be expected to make top dollar.
A former first-round pick, Dupree took a few injury-plagued years to finally truly find his stride, taking his game to another level over the course of the past two seasons. All of that is on tape, and talent evaluators around the league will have seen this.
The regression of the salary cap will negatively affect everybody, though the largest impact it will likely have is seeing a wave of unemployment for the currently-employed ‘middle class’ veterans on second contracts of average value. Teams will still be committed to bolstering their roster through free agency, and paying the cost of doing business in that field.