The start of unrestricted free agency is less than ten days away, at which time Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Bud Dupree is expected to be one of the most sought-after free agents on the market. He’s No. 12 on a recent Top 101 list produced by NFL.com, for example.
But Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus believes that Dupree is the most overrated unrestricted free agent at his position, a stance he explained in a guest post published at espn.com.
“Dupree is the classic buyer-beware candidate at the edge position. An incredibly gifted player capable of making splash plays, he also comes with a first-round pedigree and has 22 sacks over his past 27 games,” begins Monson.
“The problem is that he has played in an environment that gives him a lot of layups in terms of pass rushing,” he continues. “Last season, 60.5% of Dupree’s total pressures were either unblocked, cleanup or pursuit plays, which are more circumstantial than they are evidence of plus play. By contrast, only 26% of T.J. Watt’s pressures fell into those categories.
“Dupree can take advantage of a beneficial situation as a complementary pass-rusher, but there isn’t much evidence that he can manufacture his own elite-level production,” concludes Monson.
This is a well-articulated argument that explains why Dupree would be a somewhat risky free agent acquisition for a pass rush needy team like the Tennessee Titans.
In Pittsburgh, Dupree is one of a group of quality pass rushers that offensive linemen must account for on every play. That includes fellow outside linebacker T.J. Watt, who was runner-up for Defensive Player of the Year in 2020, generating 15 sacks in 15 games.
Then there’s defensive lineman Cameron Heyward, who was recently named as one of the Top 10 defensive linemen in the league, even now that he is on the wrong side of 30. Then there’s Stephon Tuitt, who produced 11 sacks from his defensive end position last year, as compared to Dupree’s eight (albeit in an injury-shortened season).
Bud Dupree is Also Recovering from a Torn ACL
Another factor adding to the risk of signing Bud Dupree in free agency is the fact that he’s coming off a torn ACL, which he suffered in early December against the Baltimore Ravens.
While Dupree says his recovery is “ahead of schedule” and insists he will be ready for training camp this summer, there’s no guarantee he will be available—much less at full strength—for the start of the 2021 season.
Despite the injury, Dupree will no doubt have high expectations in terms of compensation, especially after he earned $15.828 million last season—or perhaps even $17.778 million—under the non-exclusive franchise tag for outside linebackers.
Dupree, 28, was Pittsburgh’s first-round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft (No. 22 overall) out of the University of Kentucky. In 81 career games with the Steelers he has recorded 231 tackles (169 solo), with 54 tackles for loss, 65 quarterback hits, 39.5 sacks, 11 passes defensed, one interception, eight forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.
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