The Pittsburgh Steelers have informed outside linebacker Bud Dupree that they will not use the franchise tag on him for the 2021 season, according to a report by Adam Schefter of ESPN.
Dupree played the 2020 season under the franchise tag after his rookie contract expired at the end of the 2019 season. Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said earlier this offseason that the team is unlikely to use a franchise tag this season. The league deadline for teams to apply the franchise or transition tags is 4 p.m. on Tuesday.
LB Bud Dupree, Pittsburgh’s franchise player last year, has been informed that he will not be franchised again this year, per league source. Dupree is headed to free agency.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 9, 2021
Dupree made $15.828 million while playing under the one-year franchise tender contract in 2020, and that figure would have likely risen for 2021 if the Steelers had tagged him again.
Instead, Dupree will likely be set to hit the free agent market for the first time in his career. The salary tracking website Spotrac.com has estimated his value on the open market at $18.2 million per season.
The NFL’s legal contact period for teams to contact pending free agents begins on Monday, March 15 and they can begin signing with teams at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, March 17.
The Steelers have just over $3 million in salary cap space at the moment after the retirements of center Maurkice Pouncey and tight end Vance McDonald, restructuring the contract of defensive lineman Cam Heyward and extending the contract of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
Dupree is one of nearly two dozen pending Steelers free agents, of which the team will be able to sign very few unless it creates more salary cap space with further restructurings, extensions or cuts.
Drafted in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft out of Kentucky, Dupree has played six seasons with the Steelers. After largely coming off the bench in his first two seasons, Dupree first became a starter in 2017.
He broke out in 2019, when he recorded 11.5 sacks and 16 tackles for loss in 16 games. He was on pace to repeat that kind of performance in 2020, with eight sacks and eight tackles for loss in the first eight games before his season was cut short with an ACL injury suffered against Baltimore on Dec. 2.
The unanswered question is which training camp that will be.