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Free Agent Spotlight: Outside Linebacker, Bud Dupree

Dupree is a great alternative in case the Bucs are unable to re-sign Shaquil Barrett.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Arizona Cardinals
Bud Dupree would be a very viable replacement for Shaquil Barrett.
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Up next for our Free Agent Spotlight is Bud Dupree, a former first-round draft pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers back in 2015.

The Bucs have a big decision to make in regard to Shaquil Barrett, who is looking to ‘break the bank’ during free agency.

Is it possible Dupree dons the pewter and red in 2021? Let’s dive in and find out.

Bud Dupree’s Career Thus Far

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers
Dupree is a rising star at EDGE in the NFL.
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The soon-to-be seventh-year linebacker was selected with 22nd overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. Dupree was expected to upgrade the Steelers pass rush in a pretty big way, but failed to do so during his first four years in the league, where he recorded just 20.0 sacks, 33 quarterback hits, one interception, and two fumble recoveries.

Despite the struggles, the Steelers saw enough in Dupree and approved his fifth-year option. That turned out to be a great idea. Dupree finished the year with a career-high 11.5 sacks, 17 quarterback hits, 16 TFLs, four forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries.

The improvement wasn’t enough to warrant a long-term deal, however, so the Steelers decided to tag Dupree for the 2020 season. He was having another solid year with 8.0 sacks and 15 quarterback hits through 11 games before a torn ACL prematurely ended his season. Per Pro Football Focus, Dupree was fifth in the NFL with 41 pressures and tied for sixth with 8.0 sacks at the time.

For his career, Dupree has amassed 39.5 sacks, 231 combined tackles, 54 TFLs, 65 quarterback hits, eight forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, and one interception in 66 starts.

Why It Works

There’s a really good chance that the Bucs will watch Shaquil Barrett sign with another team. If that does happen, then the Bucs will need another pass rusher opposite Jason Pierre-Paul. Dupree is 28, which is a year younger than Barrett, so the Bucs will actually improve in the age department.

Dupree is big and fast. He weighs in at 6-foot-4, 269-pounds, but he ran a 4.59 at the 2015 NFL Combine and is a solid athlete. He relied on that athleticism to get the job done earlier in his career and it worked from time-to-time, but his recent success stems from the addition of improved technique. Dupree is one of the league’s better pass rushers when he is on his game.

Watch how he uses his speed to beat Cam Robinson to the top of the arc and then finishes off the play using strength and length. He drives Robinson right into Jake Luton for the sack. Pass rushers who are able to use speed-to-power like this are nearly invaluable.

He’s also a solid run defender who can set the edge and also make plays in the backfield. His coverage skills aren’t the best, but that’s pretty typical for any pass rusher. Per PFF, Barrett allowed 17 completions on 17 targets in 2020 while Dupree allowed five completions on six targets, so there’s not much of a drop-off or improvement in that regard.

If Dupree is fully recovered from his torn ACL by the time the 2021 season is ready to go then there’s little doubt that he will be a nice addition for the Bucs.


How much of Dupree’s recent success is due to the emergence of T.J. Watt, who really started to make a name for himself in 2018? Tampa Bay has an established pass rusher in JPP on the other side, but it’s fair to say that Watt is better than JPP at this point in their careers. Would that affect Dupree’s production?

Then, of course, there’s always the price tag. If the Bucs can’t afford Barrett, then it’s likely they won’t be able to afford Dupree, either. Speaking of which...

What’s the Cost?

Dupree was tagged for a little over $15.8 million in 2020 and the popular thought is the price tag will be around that number or higher. Spotrac currently has his market value at $18.2 million per year while Over The Cap has him valued at $6.29 million for the 2020 season.

The latter price tag would be an incredible development if it were to happen that way, but don’t expect Dupree to sign any deal remotely close to that. The man himself made it clear a few weeks ago that he is looking to get paid this offseason.

What We Don’t Know

Is how much Dupree’s recovery from a torn ACL effects him in 2021. He recently said he will be ready to go in time for training camp —and that’s totally plausible— but it also remains to be seen.

We also don’t know if the Bucs will get the 2019-2020 version of Dupree or if they receive the 2015-2018 version. Dupree’s trajectory seems to be on the uptick, but he still has to show that he can be a consistent force and he’s just two more birthdays away from the dreaded age of 30. We all know how the NFL starts to view players differently once they reach that milestone.

Make The Decision

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers
The seventh-year linebacker is looking to flex on a new contract this offseason.
Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

So, what are your thoughts? If the Bucs can’t retain Barrett, should they go after Dupree? How concerned are you about his ACL? Do you think his career is in fact on the upward trajectory that’s been displayed over the last 1-3/4 seasons? Let us know via the poll/comment section below!


When it comes to Bud Dupree, what would you have the Buccaneers do?

This poll is closed

  • 5%
    Sign Him, No Matter What
    (14 votes)
  • 34%
    Make An Offer, But Keep It Reasonable
    (81 votes)
  • 20%
    Invite Him For A Cup Of Coffee And See Where It Goes From There
    (48 votes)
  • 23%
    Call Him Up If They Have A Need After The Draft
    (55 votes)
  • 16%
    Nope. Don’t Need Him
    (39 votes)
237 votes total Vote Now