The Pittsburgh Steelers would love to bring back standout pass-rusher Bud Dupree, but it all depends on the price.
Breaking out as one of the team’s stars on defense, the 28-year-old outside linebacker managed a total of eight sacks and 15 quarterback hits in 11 games this season, and he did so playing under a $15.8 million franchise tag.
He tore his ACL in the second half of the season, but leading up to the injury, he proved to be worth a hefty contract going into the 2021 offseason. And if the Steelers can afford to bring the former Wildcat back, they plan to do so, but the market will dictate that when free agency opens next month.
“We’re never going to eliminate a great player like Bud Dupree, because we don’t know what Bud’s market is, and Bud doesn’t know what his market is at this point,” Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert told reporters this week. “I think that’s pretty common for not only our free agents but the whole free agency group until we get a solid cap number.”
Currently sitting $14 million below the cap threshold, the team hopes to avoid using the franchise tag on anyone in 2021, leaving out that possibility for Dupree for a second season in a row.
After the former Kentucky star evaluates his options and sees what he’ll be able to fetch on the open market, Pittsburgh will decide whether they can afford him or not. And after seeing Dupree and fellow standout pass-rusher T.J. Watt combine for 49 sacks over the last two seasons, they’re rooting for a fair deal that would allow those two to stick around long term.
“We have to adjust and know that he might be a possibility, he might not be,” Colbert said of Dupree. “Only time will tell with that. … We would love to be able to keep a Bud Dupree. Bud’s a special player, but Bud and T.J. together, that’s a special group.”
Prior to Dupree’s injury in 2020, the former Wildcat recorded his first double-digit sack season in 2019, finishing with a career high 11.5 sacks and four forced fumbled to go with 68 combined tackles, 49 solo, 17 quarterback hits, and three pass deflections.
The Steelers selected Dupree with the No. 22 overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft after a dominant four-year career in Lexington. As a senior at Kentucky, the former Wildcat managed 74 total tackles, 12.5 tackles-for-loss, and eight sacks in 12 starts.