Steelers Expected To Tag Bud Dupree

MARCH 16: The Steelers will proceed with a Dupree tag, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com reports (on Twitter). The team is interestingly $3MM-plus over the cap before any Dupree dollars are added to its 2020 payroll, per OverTheCap. A Dupree tag would cost Pittsburgh $15.8MM, if he’s tagged as an outside linebacker. The defensive end tag comes in at $17.8MM. The team has until 3pm CT Wednesday to get under the cap.

MARCH 2: Although the Steelers are projected to hold just $1.5MM in cap space — 31st in the NFL as of Monday — they are still planning on keeping one of their top defenders off the market.

Pittsburgh is preparing to use its franchise tag on Bud Dupree, Jenna Laine of ESPN.com reports (on Twitter). Dupree played out his rookie contract, using his fifth-year option season as a value-raising campaign that has him looming as one of this free agent class’ top pass rushers.

The linebacker franchise tag is expected to come in north of $16MM, though Dupree would surely lobby to be tagged as a defensive end ($18MM-plus). Nevertheless, a tag loomed as a possibility for weeks.

The 2015 first-round pick shattered his previous career-best sack total, registering 11.5 last season. While Dupree has not quite panned out like the Steelers hoped when they took him 22nd overall, he profiles as a key piece for the franchise’s reinvigorated defense. The Steelers ranked third in defensive DVOA last season (first against the pass), and their Dupree-T.J. Watt edge tandem served as a key reason for the re-emergence.

Watt will clearly be the long-term priority, but the Steelers’ chances of assembling a Super Bowl contender around 38-year-old quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will improve if Dupree returns for the 2020 season. This could also be a tag-and-trade precursor. Three teams dealt franchise-tagged edge rushers last year, and the Steelers are certainly not flush with cap space. They also traded their 2020 first- and third-round picks to acquire Minkah Fitzpatrick and Devin Bush and made need future draft capital to pursue a Roethlisberger heir apparent.

Dupree, 27, topped out at six sacks from 2015-18. His 17 quarterback hits last season also ranked 29th. Watt posted 36 QB hits. If the Steelers go into free agency with a Dupree tag on their books, it will nearly tie their hands completely. A franchise that frequently restructures contracts to create immediate cap space likely will go to that well again soon.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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