Monday was a crazy day across the NFL as well as here at Behind The Steel Curtain. With news constantly breaking due to using the franchise tag, releasing players, and retirements, it was nonstop for most of the day. Of course, everything got kicked off when the Steelers officially designated bud Dupree with the nonexclusive franchise tag.
Initially unsure of exactly what the number would end up costing the Steelers, we now know from the NFL that the tag number for linebackers is $15.828 million for the 2020 season. Although the Steelers have to clear the salary cap space for Dupree’s contract to start the new league year at 4 PM on Wednesday, actually having Dupree play in 2020 under this number is something the Steelers do not want to do. Looking strictly at the numbers, the Steelers need to make signing Dupree to a multi-year deal priority number one.
So why is it such a big deal to sign Dupree to a long-term contract? The simple answer is because it would save the Steelers more money than any other move barring a release of Ben Roethlisberger with a post-June 1 designation. If the Steelers could sign Dupree to a four-year deal, they could save $11 million in cap space for 2020 should they decide to structure the deal in such a way.
Rather than go into complexities of an NFL contract, I’m going to keep the numbers pretty simple. Granted it means the Steelers could do things slightly different, but we’re just going to round things off to keep it less confusing. Before we get into the ins and outs of a possible salary for Bud Dupree, we need to figure out what would be a fair market value.
According to overthecap.com, Dupree was projected to gain a contract which was four years with an average of $14 million per year. It appears their projections could be fairly close as Javon Hargrave was expected to earn $12 million per year for four years and his new contract with the Philadelphia Eagles is for $13 million per year for three years.
Just to be safe, let’s say the Steelers end up paying Dupree a salary which averages out to just about what he would get this season under the franchise tag: $16 million per season. If he’s given his contract for four years, the Steelers will be able to spread out any signing bonus they wish to give over the four years of the contract. Let’s say the Steelers give Dupree $1 million as a base salary his first season (which is what they gave Stephon Tuitt the first year of his deal in 2017). If the Steelers actually make the deal where it was $16 million each season, they could give Dupree a $1 million salary and a $15 million signing bonus his first season. Breaking up the $15 million over four years, the signing bonus would count $3.75 million each year toward the salary cap. Adding this number to his $1 million base salary, the Steelers could get Dupree’s cap hit as low as $4.75 million for the first year of his contract. With his current cap number at $15.828 million, this would be a savings of over $11 million towards the salary cap.
While the Steelers could get Dupree’s cap number that low even for a deal which averaged $16 million over four years, it probably would not make the most sense as his cap numbers would be almost $20 million the final three years of the contract. If the Steelers would like to keep that number more around $18.5 million those final three seasons, they could give Dupree a $5 million roster bonus his first year and only $10 million in a signing bonus to spread out over the four seasons. This would put Dupree’s cap number at $8.5 million which would save the Steelers more than $7 million on the 2020 salary cap.
Remember, these numbers are probably based on overpaying Dupree quite a bit. If the Steelers could get the deal for $14 million per season, everything would decrease across the board. Also, if the Steelers made it a five-year deal, it would also help spread out and he signing bonus they used in order to keep down there salary cap hit for 2020.
As you can see, the Steelers would be much better off signing Dupree to a long-term deal in order to save the needed salary cap space for the season. It does not mean the Steelers need to do this deal in the next two days before the league year begins. What would be most beneficial would be to get just under the salary cap and use any relief from Dupree in signing their draft picks and having some wiggle room to conduct business throughout the regular season. Either way, allowing Bud Dupree to be second to only Ben Roethlisberger on the Steelers’ salary cap list for 2020 is not how they want to so into this coming season.