With the Pittsburgh Steelers in search of depth at the outside linebacker position, they recently made contact with one of their own. Bud Dupree, their first-round draft pick in 2015, was in for visit last Thursday—now a week ago — and he left without signing a contract.
Given the situation, it’s hard to deduce precisely that means, both in the short and long term. All we know is that there is no deal now and hasn’t been in the week that followed their meeting. Yet a former teammate believes there is reason for Dupree to be the cautious party here.
“The number does matter. In our community, they’re lowballing, like, ‘Oh, take less, it’s all good’. But it’s easy to say ‘hometown discount’ when it’s not your pocket”, former Steelers outside linebacker Arthur Moats recently said on his podcast.
Following a six-year playing career in Pittsburgh, during which he had elevated his game to a Pro Bowl-caliber level by the end, Dupree signed a five-year, $82.5 million contract with the Tennessee Titans. Tennessee gave him this deal even knowing that he was coming off of a torn ACL.
It didn’t take long for the Titans to get buyer’s remorse, though, and two years later, they’re out of the deal, with Dupree back on the market. Injuries have continued to plague his career, and now 30 years old, it’s no surprise that many think he is now on the backup market. At least temporarily, that is one of the reasons why Moats believes he should be cautious.
“Yeah, you sign there, you’re sitting behind both of them dudes and you don’t get any snaps. Now you don’t have a market next season”, he pointed out, referring to the possibility of Dupree getting little playing time with the Steelers in 2023 and then facing free agency again with an insubstantial body of work. “It’s risky when you take the discount and then try to hit it again”.
The problem, for Dupree, in returning to Pittsburgh is the fact that the Steelers have T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith, both of whom are proven double-digit-sack edge rushers. While both have had some injury issues themselves, nothing indicates a high probability of repetitive strain.
A couple of years ago the Steelers brought in another former established starting pass rusher with an eye toward insulating themselves against injury. That would be Melvin Ingram, whom they traded by midseason because he had grown unhappy with his role—even though he was playing more than he did after the trade.
The difference in this case is the familiarity between the two parties, but Dupree ultimately has to have his own interests at heart. At the very least he has to give himself the opportunity to explore all options, and that might mean waiting until after the draft to see how team needs shake out around the league. Even an injury might pop up down the road that would provide him with a better opportunity.