Druin: Bud Dupree Likely Gone After 2020 Regardless of Performance

Donnie Druin

The craziness of COVID-19 and heavy talks surrounding the upcoming season (and whatever possibilities within it) have filled headlines on every major sports network, and for good reason. However, the NFL remains on schedule as the season draws closer by the day, as training camps are still on schedule to begin in late July. 

This includes the deadline for franchise tag players to reach a long-term agreement with their teams, as July 15th remains the last day both parties can negotiate such a deal. If the two sides are unable to reach an agreement, the player simply plays on the one year deal the tag presents. 

Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker (maybe, we'll get to that in a second) Bud Dupree is set to make $15.8 million in 2020 should the Steelers not be able to come to terms with the Kentucky product. 

NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported Dupree and Pittsburgh aren't close to a deal, while simultaneously revealing Dupree filed a grievance in hopes of being identified as a defensive end to earn more money on the franchise tag (DE's earn $17.7 million this year on the tag). 

In my opinion, I'm not too sure Dupree wins his grievance. While he can be classified as an edge rusher, he plays the traditional OLB role in a 3-4 defense (with a defensive end playing to his inside) and even in sub-packages, he's on the edge in a two point stance. Regardless of my two cents, I cant fault Dupree for trying to get an extra couple million in a move that has no negative downside other than being told no. 

I am of the belief, however, that Dupree is entering his last season in Pittsburgh. 

This isn't an attack on Dupree as a player or person, but more-so an indication of the salary cap and how the Steelers have positioned their chess pieces. In my eyes, Dupree is in a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" produce scenario partially thanks in-part to the presence of 2020 third-round pick Alex Highsmith. 

Pittsburgh also has a number of big names to pay following this season, with players such as JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Conner, Alejandro Villanueva and Cam Heyward set to be free agents in 2021. Should the Steelers want to handle business early and prevent 2022 mega free agents such as Minkah Fitzpatrick and T.J. Watt from sniffing the market, we may see deals also get done for either/or sooner rather than later. 

The effects of COVID-19 will certainly be felt past simply playing football this season, as salary cap effects are expected in potentially big ways for the next few years as a reflection of heavy revenue loss. In a recent NFLPA proposal sent to the league in an attempt to navigate such losses, the NFLPA suggested the salary cap mirror 2020's $198.2 million figure for next season. This would be a big blow for a Steelers front office banking on the salary cap continually trending upwards. 

Case in point: There's a lot of unknown to come in terms of Pittsburgh's financial situation, potentially leading to even tougher decisions to make than before. 

Should Dupree not be able to replicate another strong performance this season, the Steelers will feel more justified in not paying Dupree the high dollar he seeks. Should Dupree match his fantastic 2019 campaign, he likely prices himself out of Pittsburgh, especially if the organization even remotely likes what Highsmith brings to the table. That's just the nature of the business. 

Dupree is likely to see a well-deserved payday following this season. The pressure provided opposite of Watt in 2019 was a big factor in the Steelers' defensive success, and Dupree's success can't be taken from him. However, when it comes time for the tough decisions to be made, Pittsburgh's draft and replace mantra holds no exception to the likes of Dupree. I'm of the belief that Dupree's one of the odd men out following 2020. 

Donnie Druin is a Staff Writer with AllSteelers. Follow Donnie on Twitter @DonnieDruin, and AllSteelers @si_steelers.


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