Steelers place franchise tag on Bud Dupree, keeping pass rusher from hitting free agency

Bud Dupree will remain with the Steelers for the 2020 season. On Monday, Pittsburgh’s outside linebacker was franchise tagged by the Steelers, the team that selected him with the 22nd overall pick in the 2015 draft. The tag will pay Dupree, about $15.829 million for the 2020 season, per CBS Sports contributor Joel Corry. Dupree made $9.2 million last season after the Steelers decided to pick up his fifth-year option the previous spring. 

The 27-year-old pass rusher is coming off his best season with the black and gold. In 2019, Dupree set career highs with 11.5 sacks, 68 tackles, 16 tackles for loss, four forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. Dupree’s success helped the Steelers finish first in the NFL in sacks and turnovers forced, third in fewest yards per rush allowed, third in passing yards allowed, and sixth in red zone efficiency. 

“You always want to finish what you start,” Dupree said about his desire to remain with the Steelers following the team’s regular season finale, via ESPN’s Brooke Pryor. “That lets you know you had a good career. And a way to let people know who believe in you.”

Last season, Dupree and 2019 All-Pro T.J. Watt developed into arguably the most formidable outside linebacker duo in the NFL. Watt, the team’s first-round pick in 2017, led the NFL with eight forced fumbles last season. He also recorded a team-high 14.5 sacks, the third highest single season total in franchise history. Watt and Dupree’s production started to increase in 2018, when the two switched positions heading into the season. 

Dupree is part of a defense that boasts eight former first-round picks: Watt, defensive tackles Cam Heyward and Tyson Alualu, linebacker Devin Bush, cornerback Joe Haden, and safeties Terrell Edmunds and Minkah Fitzpatrick. The unit was a major reason why the Steelers remained in playoff contention throughout the 2019 season despite losing Ben Roethlisberger two weeks into the season with an elbow injury. Big Ben, who began throwing following surgery last month, is hoping to be back at full strength by the time the regular season begins. 

Watt, who has recorded 34.5 sacks in three seasons with the Steelers, is expected to receive an extension at some point this offseason.

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