Steelers offseason positional outlook: Outside linebackers
Editor’s note: This is Part 8 of a 12-part series breaking down the Pittsburgh Steelers at each position in the offseason. All salary cap information courtesy spotrac.com.
The subject of the 2019 contract for Bud Dupree was of great interest and debate this time last year.
A year later, not much has changed — Dupree’s contract status for 2019 is once again one of the biggest decisions the Pittsburgh Steelers have to make.
Dupree is scheduled to make $9.232 million this season, the terms of which were cemented after the Steelers picked up his fifth-year option prior to his fourth season in the spring of 2018.
However, Dupree’s contract is guaranteed only for injury. With Dupree finishing 2018 healthy, that leaves the Steelers once again pondering what to do with their talented former No. 22 overall draft choice who has delivered underwhelming production as an edge pass rusher.
Dupree has just 20 sacks in four seasons — or as many as teammate T.J. Watt in two seasons since he was the No. 30 overall pick in 2017.
While Dupree’s defenders will remind you his duties and contributions to the Steelers go beyond mere sack production — and his work in coverage and in run defense has largely been “above the line” — let’s face it: Steelers outside linebackers will always be judged by their passrushing skills.
Dupree might not be worth almost $10 million to the Steelers for a season. But if he isn’t their right outside linebacker next year, the Steelers need to find someone else who will be before they can comfortably decide to let him go.
The top backup outside linebacker, Anthony Chickillo, is an unrestricted free agent — and he would asked to be paid like a starter if the Steelers were going to make him one. Ola Adeniyi has some potential as a James Harrison clone-type, but he barely played (nine defensive snaps in one game after being activated Dec. 1) as a rookie and remains something of a question mark.
The only other outside linebacker in the organization is Keion Adams, a 2017 seventh-round pick who has yet to spend any time on the 53-man roster.
Could it be for the fourth time in a seven-year span, the Steelers take an outside linebacker in the first round of the draft? It’s at least a possibility they might have to consider — particularly if they choose to sever ties with Dupree.
Another option? Negotiate a multiyear deal with Dupree that lowers his per-year earnings (and cap hit) but increases his overall cash intake.
Offseason outlook: Outside linebackers
• Bud Dupree, 1 year left on contract, $9.232 million cap hit for 2019
• T.J. Watt, 2 years left on contract, $2.525 million cap hit for 2019
• Ola Adeniyi, 3 years left on contract, $500,000 cap hit for 2019
• Keion Adams, practice squad
• Anthony Chickillo, unrestricted, $1.907 million cap hit in 2018
Up Next: Inside linebackers
Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chris at [email protected] or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.
Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chris by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .