Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Bud Dupree is one of seven priority free agents the team could see walk via free agency. As much of a force he and T.J. Watt are on defense, keeping Dupree is a luxury the Steelers likely can’t afford.
Last March, Pittsburgh placed the franchise tag on the linebacker. General manager Kevin Colbert talked about how they wanted to make him a Steeler for life.
“Bud Dupree has always been a priority,” said Colbert. “Our message has consistently been, ‘Hey Bud, if we use the franchise tag, our goal is to still sign you and get you locked up as a Steeler for the rest of your career,’ and that’s what we’ll continue to try to do.”
Only that never happened.
Dupree was on track to exceed his career-high 11.5 sack total from 2019 when he sustained a torn ACL.
If Colbert and his staff can manipulate a way to miraculously tag Dupree for a second consecutive season, they could work out a long-term contract before the season starts that pushes obligations into the 2022 season. As it currently stands, the team only has 17 active contracts for $58 million, so their salary cap situation looks a lot brighter in 2022.
Consecutive tags are allowed, which would be the case for Dupree. For a player to be tagged for two straight years, the team must pay 120 percent of the player’s previous salary. In this instance, the Steelers would pay Dupree a one-year salary worth $18.96 million for the consecutive designation. He played on the tag in 2021 for $15.8 million.
Spotrac’s calculated market value on Bud is $18.2 million.
Of course, this is all hypothetical. Colbert himself said that it was “doubtful” they would use the tag in the 2021 season. Pittsburgh pinching pennies to get under the cap by March 17 is a good enough reason. As for the long-term Colbert spoke about last year — a new offer would’ve happened by now if his intentions were true.
Not to mention, Pittsburgh has only tagged a player consecutively twice since 1993: Running back Le’Veon Bell and kicker Jeff Reed.
The writing was on the wall that it would be Dupree’s final season in Pittsburgh when the team drafted linebacker OLB Alex Highsmith last April. The rookie played well in Dupree’s six-game absence and will only get better.