There has been a lot written about Bud Dupree over the last week as the deadline for using the franchise tag is looming.  The Pittsburgh Steelers have all but announced they will be using this tag on Dupree at a cost of $16.5 million for the 2020 season.  The team knew all along keeping Bud Dupree would be expensive, and now some in the media are just catching on.  Any long term deal the Steelers would hope to get done would have to have an average yearly value of $16 million as the floor.  Anyone who suggests otherwise isn’t doing their homework.  The debate on whether or not he’s worth it is one we will tackle here:

The contract comp:

When comparing a player in a similar situation as Bud Dupree when entering free agency, look no further than Z’Darius Smith.  Smith signed a 4 year, $66 million dollar contract with the Green Bay Packers in 2019.

That’s an AAV of $16.5 million to a player who never registered a double digit sack season in his career.  In fact, when comparing his stats to Bud Dupree’s it is logical to think he is worth substantially more.  Here’s a breakdown of each player’s stats the year prior to them hitting free agency:

Sacks: Smith –  8.5    Dupree – 11.5

Tackles:  Smith – 55    Dupree – 68

TFL:  Smith – 10    Dupree – 16

QB hits:  Smith – 25   Dupree – 17

FF:  Smith – 1    Dupree – 4

As you can see, Dupree registered better numbers nearly across the board on the key stats for edge rushers.  His agents could easily make an argument that their client is worth north of $20 million per season.  A negotiation between the two sides would likely land at somewhere in the $18 to $19 million a year range.  That may seem like an awfully big number, but it’s the going rate for edge rushers once they hit free agency.

The value:

Now the burning question.  We knew Bud Dupree is going to be expensive, but is he worth north of $16.5 million?  The answer to that is very simple……yes!  As we wrote back in October, Dupree is an indispensable part of the Steelers defense going forward. Steelers Need to Bring Back Bud Dupree

The Steelers would simply not be able to find a suitable replacement either in the draft, or through free agency.  Dupree has evolved over the last four years into a premier 3/4 outside linebacker.  His ability to set the edge against the run, rush the passer, and drop into coverage is a rare skill set.  Very few linebackers in the league can excel at all three.  Even less can do it coming out of this year’s draft.  None, when you consider the Steelers do not have a pick in the first round.

Losing Bud Dupree would set the defense back immeasurably.  That would go against everything Kevin Colbert has been building towards the last few years.  This team is determined to get Ben Roehtlisberger on the field with this defense, and make one last Super Bowl run.  In the Steelers eyes, Bud Dupree is worth any number the franchise tag would bring.

Long term:

Whether or not the Steelers plan on doing a long term deal with Bud Dupree is debatable.  They may in fact be planning on using the franchise tag to buy them that one year Super Bowl run we mentioned earlier.  The other issue is the eventual negotiation with TJ Watt on the horizon.  Getting both players signed would cost the team $40 plus million per season on edge rushers.  That’s a substantial percentage of the cap for one position.

Whatever the long term plans of the team, Bud Dupree will be back for the 2020 season.  Don’t let the shock value of the number fool you. Players are worth what the market dictates, not the opinion of writers or fans. $16.5 million may very well look like a bargain after the season is over. Dupree is worth every penny of that for the Pittsburgh Steelers plans in 2020.