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Bud Dupree vs Cam Heyward: The Steelers chose the wrong player to resign

The Pittsburgh Steelers made the decision to sign a defensive veteran to a long term contract this offseason, unfortunately it was the wrong one.  They signed  a 31 year old Cam Heyward to a 4 year, $65 million dollar extension just a week ago.  https://www.spotrac.com/nfl/pittsburgh-steelers/cameron-heyward-7746/Choosing to sign Heyward, and not resign Bud Dupree could prove to be a huge mistake going forward.

Bud Dupree looked dominant in the season opener against the Giants Monday night.  He was unblockable at times, picking up right where he left off last season.  If he continues to play at this pace, there is no way the Steelers will be able to afford him after the season.  Bud Dupree is going to be expensive…..and worth every penny

We are assuming the Steelers can not sign both to new contracts because of salary cap limitations.  If that’s the case, why take a 31 year old defensive lineman with tons of miles on him over a blossoming pass rusher just hitting his prime?  Here’s the argument for both:

Heyward:

There’s zero argument that Cam Heyward isn’t the heart and soul of the defense.  He has been the defensive captain for several seasons now.  That alone makes him valuable to the franchise.  His play on the field is also a major factor obviously.  Heyward has shown no signs of slowing down thus far despite being on the wrong side of thirty.  He played all sixteen games last season while registering 9 sacks and 83 tackles.   When it comes to 3/4 defensive lineman, there aren’t many better than Cam Heyward in this league.

Dupree:

Bud Dupree is a player who is about to hit his prime.  Coming off his best season to date with 11.5 sacks in 2019, big things are coming for this player.  It’s not just the sacks with Dupree.  He is one of the premier outside linebackers against the run as well.  His ability to hold the edge versus much bigger tackles is key for the way the Steelers play defense.  There are very few players in this league can excel at both.  All this, and Dupree can hold his own in coverage as well.  We are talking about the total package here, and his best years are still ahead of him.  The decision not to resign Bud Dupree this past offseason, while using the franchise tag instead will be one this team will regret.

The Verdict:

We get all the reasons Kevin Colbert got the Cam Heyward done first.  Cam is a very important veteran who was valuable for team chemistry.  It was also an easier contract to get done given Heyward’s age and loyalty to the team.  Cam will almost assuredly never see the last two years of his contract as the team has left itself a 8 million dollar out in 2023.  Bud Dupree on the other hand will command a much greater commitment.  He can expect a contract with an average value of $20 million plus on the open market.  A good comp would be Frank Clark of the Chiefs who signed a 5 year, $104 million contract in 2019.

The mess that is the Steelers salary cap for 2021 may have been the deciding factor in who to sign between these two.  The team has over $100 million in cap space tied up in seven players, all of them being over 30.  Then there’s the pressing issue of getting  players like Ju Ju Smith Schuster and TJ Watt signed to extensions. Given the cap could go as low as $175 million, the Steelers have major issues next season.

Still,  Kevin Colbert chose wrong when deciding on locking up Heyward before Dupree.  In three years there is a very good chance Cam Heyward will be out of the NFL, or at least near the end.  Meanwhile Bud Dupree will still be tearing up the league just entering his 30s.  The Steelers picked the wrong player to resign, there is just no way around it.

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