It was the worst possible outcome for Bud Dupree in 2020. The veteran outside linebacker believed he proved himself worthy of a sizable contract extension following a career-best season in 2019, one in which he delivered 11.5 sacks, 68 combined tackles, four forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Instead, the team exercised a franchise tag that paid guaranteed him $15.83 million but no long-term security, wanting to revisit talks in 2021.
Dupree was on his way to duplicating -- if not outright besting -- his previous career-high marks when he suffered a season-ending torn ACL on Dec. 2 against the rival Baltimore Ravens, bringing those efforts to a screeching halt. As the 28-year-old works to recover from that devastating injury, some believe his value on the open market will take a hit, thanks to the timing of what happened; but he wants the Steelers and all other potential suitors to know he'll be back to prime form soon.
While it's much too soon for Dupree to be available for any offseason conditioning in April, he fully expects to be 100 percent and ready to take the field when training camps fire up in July, per Jeremy Fowler of ESPN. That's not only good news for Dupree's future, but his progress has also kept the Steelers engaged -- the team hoping to have him back in their uniform in 2021. Barring a second franchise tag that would cost Pittsburgh a chunky $18.9 million fully guaranteed salary, something that's unlikely to happen, the Steelers will have to put in their bid like everyone else, but they'll give it a go.
Dupree finished the 2020 season with eight sacks and 15 quarterback hits (just two QB hits shy of his career best set in 2019) and two forced fumbles in 11 games, proving his previous year was no fluke. His market value remains strong at a projected $18.2 million, per Spotrac.com, and mostly because he's a force as a pass rusher, when healthy. Having not played for any other NFL team since joining the Steelers as the 22nd-overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, the club is simply better when he's on the field.
At some point this summer, he expects to lace up again, but time will tell if it'll be in Western Pennsylvania.