With two weeks to go until the start of 2020 free agency's negotiating period, the Pittsburgh Steelers have reportedly decided they won't allow one of their own big names to hit the market, with ESPN's Jenna Laine reporting Monday the team is expected to use its franchise tag on impending free agent pass rusher Bud Dupree. This comes days after Dupree, 27, as one of the veterans most likely to be tagged this offseason, suggesting Pittsburgh would "do anything within reason" to keep the linebacker in 2020.
The news should be welcome not only to Steelers fans, who saw the former first-round draft pick blossom with 11.5 sacks in 2019 but to team leaders like coach Mike Tomlin and owner Art Rooney, both of whom have called re-signing Dupree a priority for this offseason. In another light, the forthcoming tag also marks the latest blow to the pool of available pass rushers in free agency. While Dupree isn't necessarily a household name at the position, he's fresh off a career-high in sacks and would've been in line for a potentially lucrative payday as one of the.
Drafted 22nd overall in 2015, Dupree hadn't exactly lived up to expectations coming into the 2019 campaign, establishing himself as a solid mid-tier starter rather than an elite edge presence through his first four years. Opposite T.J. Watt under his fifth-year option, however, the Kentucky product didn't just rack up the sacks but finished with a career-best 68 tackles and four forced fumbles.