The Steelers also released linebackers Mark Barron and Anthony Chickillo on Monday. Barron started nine of 15 games and played 70 percent of defensive snaps for the team in 2019. Cutting him saved Steelers $5.25M in cap space, freeing up more room for Dupree.
While the franchise tag figures for the 2020 season have not yet been released, the tag for a linebacker in 2019 was $15.4 million.
Dupree, who turned 27 in February, was the Steelers' first-round draft pick (No. 22 overall) in 2015. He became a regular starter in the last three years of his rookie deal but put together a career season after the team picked up his fifth-year option for the 2019 season.
He formed a fierce tandem with T.J. Watt on the outside and racked up a career-high 11.5 sacks along with 16 tackles for loss and 17 quarterback hits. He also forced four fumbles.
After Dupree's strong season, the Steelers were adamant that retaining the outside linebacker was a priority this offseason. Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said at the combine that, "we want Bud Dupree to finish his career as a Pittsburgh Steeler."
He has 200 tackles, 31.5 sacks, 6 forced fumbles and an interception in five seasons.
Chickillo was a rotational player in his last four years with the Steelers. He played 13% of the defensive snaps last season, but was more important on special teams where he logged 51% of snaps. Because Chickillo signed a two-year, $8 million contract prior to last season with most of the cap hit coming this year, he was an obvious cap casualty.
The Steelers also released WR Johnny Holton, who came with a cap savings of $825,000.