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Should Steelers Look at Extension for Bud Dupree?

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When the Pittsburgh Steelers picked up the fifth-year option of defensive end Bud Dupree, some fans were surprised, and even disappointed at the idea of investing $9.23 million into a player with a career-high of six sacks in a single season.

However, the Steelers did not stress the decision and did not budge in their stance that it was a no-brainer to keep the former first-round pick for his fifth NFL season. Team president Art Rooney II was quick to give him a vote of confidence heading into the offseason.

“Bud had some good games and some other games that were probably not what you would want,” Rooney noted in his end-of-season review. “But I think there was some progress this year, so we’re looking for some progress from him again next year.”

The fact of the matter is that the NFL is starving for pass rushers, and there just are not many people in this world who stand around 6-foot-3 to 6-foot-5, weigh between 255 and 270 pounds, and have the speed, strength, and athleticism to get off of the football, bend the edge and win hand fights with offensive lineman.

Dupree has not been great, but you do not have to be a great pass rusher to get paid in the NFL. Dupree suffered a hernia in the 2016 offseason, a shoulder injury in the 2017 offseason, and switched sides in the 2018 offseason. Entering 2019, there is a reason for the Steelers and Dupree to feel the best season is yet to come.

With that in mind, would the Steelers be smart to bet on Dupree before the season and extend him at a cheaper price before a strong season? What should Dupree look forward to when he enters the free agent market, and what kind of offer would the Steelers offer Dupree before the start of the season?

MOST COMPARABLE PLAYERS

When looking at this most recent offseason, some notable names come into mind. Five players that Dupree will look most specifically to are Jadeveon Clowney, Dee Ford, Nick Perry, Preston Smith and Za’Darius Smith.

Dupree knows Za’Darius quite well, they were teammates at Kentucky. Dupree was more productive and athletic in college, which caused him to go higher while Smith dropped to round four. However, without the fifth-year option of a first-round pick, Smith hit free agency a year earlier. He signed a deal this past offseason with the Packers, as did Preston Smtih, who was a second-round pick in the same draft as Dupree.

These two will be great comparison points as they came from the same draft class, but Dupree also will carry the upside and athletic background of a first round pick. Dee Ford was the 23rd pick in the first round, while Dupree went 22nd the following year. Clowney went first overall, but when looking at the athletic upside, and injury questions on both sides, Dupree can be compared to Clowney. Perry was the 28th pick in the first round and was drafted in 2012, but can be a good athletic comparison as well.

Jadeveon Clowney Bud Dupree Nick Perry
Height 6′ 5¼” 6′ 4″ 6′ 3″
Weight 266 lbs 269 lbs 271 lbs
Arm Length 34½” 32⅝” 33″
Hand Size 10″ 9¾” 9½”
40 Yard Dash 4.53s 4.56s 4.64s
Vertical Jump 37½” 42″ 38″
Broad Jump 124″ 138″ 124″
3-Cone Drill 7.27s 7.49s* 7.25s
20 Yard Shuttle 4.43s 4.47s* 4s

The Smith’s come from Dupree’s draft class, while Clowney and Ford are former first rounders a year prior. All four saw contract activity just last year while Perry gives us a more historical comparison to go off of.

STATISTICAL COMPARISONS

When looking into these five players in comparison to Dupree, the $9.23 million fifth-year option seems more and more understandable. These statistical comparisons looked specifically at the first four seasons of their careers. What is interesting to note is that Ford and Clowney had their best season on their fifth-year option. This was not included, as Dupree has not had a chance to match.

Totals Table
Tack Tack Fumb Fumb Fumb Fumb Def Def
Rk Player From To AV G Solo Ast Sk
FF FR Yds TD Int TD
1 Preston Smith 2015 2018 26 64 104 60 24.5 4 3 13 1 4 0
2 Jadeveon Clowney 2014 2017 29 47 113 45 20.0 3 3 71 1 0 0
3 Bud Dupree 2015 2018 20 54 97 35 20.0 2 1 0 0 1 1
4 Za’Darius Smith 2015 2018 14 58 71 48 18.5 3 0 0 0 0 0
5 Dee Ford 2014 2017 15 51 60 21 17.5 2 0 0 0 0 0
6 Nick Perry 2012 2015 10 46 76 38 12.5 5 1 0 0 0 0

Preston Smith has been the healthiest, and therefore the most successful of the group through four seasons. The group gets even closer when looking at the start to their careers on a game by game basis.

Per Game Table
Tack Tack Fumb Fumb Fumb Fumb Def Def
Rk Player From To Solo Ast Sk
FF FR Yds TD Int TD
1 Jadeveon Clowney 2014 2017 2.4 1.0 0.4 0.1 0.1 1.5 0.0 0.0 0.0
2 Bud Dupree 2015 2018 1.8 0.6 0.4 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
3 Preston Smith 2015 2018 1.6 0.9 0.4 0.1 0.0 0.2 0.0 0.1 0.0
4 Dee Ford 2014 2017 1.2 0.4 0.3 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
5 Nick Perry 2012 2015 1.7 0.8 0.3 0.1 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
6 Za’Darius Smith 2015 2018 1.2 0.8 0.3 0.1 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0

Dupree has seen these numbers. He knows where he stands. He knows that he can use both Smith’s as a base. He can point to Ford and Clowney when claiming a year five breakout and can point to Perry as a player that had the team that drafted him to remain loyal and see his best play come after his rookie deal. So, what kind of deal could be on the table for Dupree?

CONTRACT COMPARISONS

Considering these names were the closest to Dupree entering the market, they will be a great guide for what Dupree is expected to get.

Player GTD $ Years Under Contract Yearly Avg Salary
Preston Smith $16M 4 $15.5M
Jadeveon Clowney $15.9M 1 $15.9M
Nick Perry $18.5M 5 $12M *2016
ZaDarius Smith $20M 4 16.5M
Dee Ford $33.5M 5 $17.1M

Za’Darius Smith signed a four-year deal worth up to $66 million. Preston Smith saw $62 million on four years. Dupree has more sacks in four fewer games played than Za’Darius and is right on track with Preston on a per game basis. Dupree also comes in with more athleticism and more draft pedigree. Considering the cap will only rise, Dupree could look at a neighborhood of $16-million per year on an average annual salary.

Clowney was injured early into his career but was more productive than Dupree on a per-game basis. However, the Houston Texans did not trust his health and let Clowney play on his fifth-year option. Clowney put up nine sacks for the second straight season, proving that his fourth season was not a fluke, and his first three seasons were much more injury anomalies.

Still, the Texans have yet to bet on the health of Clowney long term. Yes, they gave him the franchise tag. However, you can see it comes in at a similar price to both Smith’s with none of the long-term commitment. Dupree enters year five hoping to show injuries were the issue for his early-season struggles, but would a productive year put the Steelers in a situation similar to the Texans with Clowney?

Ford was less productive than Dupree through three seasons, but, put up 13 sacks in year five. Still, the Chiefs were not buying it. They were put in a spot where they had to franchise Ford but immediately moved on from him for a second round pick. The 49ers believed in the fifth-year of Ford and loaded him with guaranteed money.

In the case of Perry, his first four seasons were so rough that the Packers declined his fifth-year option. After seeing no market, the team brought him back cheaper than the option, but after an 11 sack campaign, the Packers were put in a spot where they had to give Perry a $60-million deal with $18.5 million in guarantees.

Perry put up seven sacks in the first year of his deal. The second year he put up one sack and got hurt. In his third year, the Packers will eat $11 million of dead-cap for Perry to play somewhere else so that they can upgrade to the Smith’s we have talked about. He is still currently a free agent.

A CONTRACT FOR DUPREE

While many see a $9 million cap hit for Dupree as an overpay, based on his market value, Dupree is expected to get more money next season. The Steelers have to walk a fine line that has not worked well in the long term for any of the examples shown. If the Steelers wait to extend Dupree, a breakout means franchise tag money or multiple years of guaranteed money. If they give Dupree a market-value extension, they could see a Perry turn and get one healthy season and a bunch of dead cap space.

When looking at an extension, Dupree has a very good chance to check in averaging over $16 million per year. The question will be the guaranteed money. Most of the deals above give the team a chance to get out of the deal without too many issues after a year or two. If the Steelers can get Dupree for a deal in the range of Preston Smith with similar guarantees, it might be worth it.

Steelers Now analyst. IUP Alum. Pittsburgh native. Steelers and Pirates critic, Penguins homer. Covers NFL. Follows NFL, NCAAB, NBA, MLB, and NHL. Writes about the Chicago Bears, Pittsburgh Steelers, and other relevant NFL news.

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