Not sure if this has been reported, but league sources have told me that they expect the Redskins to franchise tag Brandon Scherff and the Steelers to tag Bud Dupree.— JennaLaineESPN (@JennaLaineESPN) March 2, 2020
The biggest question with the Pittsburgh Steelers and the franchise tag for the 2020 season has not been “who” would be tagged, but instead “if” it would be used. The Steelers are extremely tight up against the salary cap for 2020 and with a new Collective Bargaining Agreement yet to be reached, the method in which they normally conduct business is not nearly as much of a viable option as in years past. So with the Steelers essentially with no salary cap space, how are they going to afford the $16+ million it would take to tag Dupree?
First of all, the Steelers do not have to be salary cap compliant in order to use the franchise tag. The Steelers can apply the tag by the deadline but will still have until 4 PM on March 18 to adjust their salary cap accordingly. The other problem the Steelers face is they have yet to sign all of their exclusive rights free agents, or offer tenders to the restricted free agents. All the money used to do these things along with the franchise tag will have to have countermoves in which salary is cut before March 18.
Another question involved with the franchise tag being used on Bud Dupree is if the Steelers will use the exclusive tag or the non-exclusive tag. Insisting on using the exclusive tag the last two times it was used on Steelers’ running back Le’Veon Bell, the player is not able to go out and attempt to negotiate a deal with another team. If the Steelers choose to use the nonexclusive tag on Dupree, he could work another deal somewhere else. The Steelers would ultimately have a chance to match the deal, but if they choose not to they would receive the next two first-round draft choices from the team who signed Dupree.
As Kevin Colbert stated at the NFL combine during his time with the press, anytime the Steelers use the franchise tag is ultimately in hopes of signing the player to a long-term deal before the next season. In the case of Bud Dupree, this would definitely be beneficial to the Steelers as they would prefer to have his salary cap number for 2020 be less than the current franchise tag.
Once the Steelers use the franchise tag, other options include trading Dupree, or the Steelers rescinding the tag if they are unable to get a long-term deal worked out. In either case, Dupree’s salary under the franchise tag will still need to be salary cap compliant after March 18 but a corresponding move could help in the coming months when the Steelers will need space in order to sign their upcoming draft class.
Of course, the news on Monday from ESPN is not a guarantee the Steelers are using the tag on Dupree. Until the news breaks from the Steelers themselves, it is still speculation and probability. With the uncertainty of a new CBA or other personnel moves the Steelers would like to make, they still have time until they make the decision to definitely use the franchise tag for 2020.