Why Placing Franchise Tag on Bud Dupree Appears Likely

Donnie Druin

Somebody call the Brinks truck.

After a stellar fifth season that included 11.5 sacks, Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Bud Dupree finds himself as one of the top pass-rushers ready to hit the market, a market where we believe Dupree can successfully secure north of $15 million on an annual basis. If we're reading the tea leaves correctly, it's not a matter of if, but where Dupree secures the bag. 

With just a few million in cap space, the Steelers find themselves with a handful of problems to sort before free agency hits. 

However, it's a problem the team will happily deal with given Dupree's circumstances. Through the first four years of his career, Dupree failed to provide the services expected out of a first-round pick. 2019 was a different story for Dupree, as the Kentucky product put his best foot forward and appeared to finally unlocked his potential. 

Will the Steelers stick around to see if Dupree has more to offer? 

The debate of Dupree's future in Pittsburgh has no shortage of opinion on either side. With some vying for Dupree to be extended and others wanting Dupree gone, a common option has been utilizing the franchise tag. 

For those unaware, a franchise tag is used by a club to prevent players from leaving by keeping them on the roster for another season. A set price for each position is determined by the league prior to free agency, and if the two parties are not able to agree on a long term deal by the summer, the player plays on the one year deal that season (if you've been following the Steelers, you're likely well-versed in this area thanks to former running back Le'Veon Bell.)

Former NFL agent Joel Corry put together a piece for CBS Sports explaining the different tags, how they work, and what he believes estimated tags will cost for 2020. 

Corry projects the following numbers for designated linebackers on each tag:

Franchise tag: $15.973 million

Transition tag: $13.826 million

Dupree is expected to gain right around what Corry estimates the franchise tag to be for the linebacker position. The time period for the Steelers to place a designated tag on Dupree is quickly approaching, as clubs are able to tag players starting February 25. 

With only a few weeks left to decide Dupree's fate in Pittsburgh, utilizing the franchise tag is a popular option for a number of reasons. 

Perhaps the best thing about the tag is extending the time frame to reach a long-term deal with Dupree, if the team chooses to go that direction. After a rough start to his career in black and gold, Dupree shined in the last season of his rookie contract. Should the Steelers miss an opportunity to keep a pass-rusher that is just hitting his stride opposite of T.J. Watt, generating pressure on the quarterback may drop to lowly levels. 

If the team does insist on Dupree extending his stay, it's wise to reach a long-term agreement with him for financial reasons as well. The potential money Dupree is looking at may be considered cheap when the market is reset within the next couple seasons, years where the Steelers will look to lock-up other key defensive players including Watt and Minkah Fitzpatrick. 

Yet signing a new deal essentially locks the Steelers to Dupree for the next three or four seasons, something that doesn't exactly excite some within the fan base (LaMarr Woodley, anybody?). Are the Steelers comfortable handing a significant amount of money to a player who has only produced one of five seasons? 

Utilizing the franchise tag makes sense on a number of fronts. Don't want Dupree to leave in free agency without potentially getting first round picks? Use the tag. Want more time to work out a long-term deal? Place the tag and give yourself until July to work on a long-term deal. Want Dupree to prove himself for one more season before handing over the check? All are applicable under the tag. 

The future still remains unknown for Dupree's tenure in Pittsburgh. yet it appears placing the franchise tag on Dupree makes the most sense for nearly every scenario the Steelers may envision for the future. 

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