Pittsburgh Steelers lose Bud Dupree, Matt Feiler in free agency, but keep Cam Sutton
Former Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Bud Dupree will be signing with the Tennessee Titans.
Dupree, who played last season on the franchise tag, will make $16.5 million per season on a multiyear deal, according to the NFL Network.
Dupree was the No. 22 overall pick in the 2015 draft and blossomed into one of the top edge rushers in the NFL after a slow start to his career. Dupree had eight sacks in 11 games last season before he suffered a season-ending knee injury in December.
Some in the industry believed Dupree's value would be diminished due to the recent knee injury, but he'll be among the highest-paid pass rushers in the league.
Dupree, who turned 28 last month, started 66 games for the Steelers and recorded 39 1/2 sacks, including 19 1/2 over the past two seasons. After a sports hernia injury limited him to 16 games in 2016, Dupree became a full-time starter by his third season, but he blossomed over the past two years.
The Steelers took a leap of faith when they picked up the fifth-year option on his rookie contract, and the gamble paid off because Dupree finally reached his potential and gave the Steelers a dynamic duo at outside linebacker with Dupree paired along with T.J. Watt. But with Watt in line to set the edge rusher market, perhaps as early as this summer, the Steelers did not have enough room on their salary cap to retain both.
The Steelers selected Alex Highsmith in the third round of last year's draft knowing a Dupree departure was likely. Highsmith, who stepped into the starting lineup after Dupree was injured, will become the full-time starter next season. He had 48 tackles and had two sacks and an interception in 16 games as a rookie.
Feiler to Chargers: The Steelers also won't be retaining versatile offensive lineman Matt Feiler, who will be signing with the Chargers, according to ESPN. The deal is worth $21 over three years.
Feiler, who will turn 29 in July, started 39 games over the past three seasons for the Steelers. He started 26 games at right tackle in 2018 and 2019 before moving to left guard last season.
Feiler's departure increases the chances the Steelers will re-sign Zach Banner, whose 2020 season ended with a torn ACL in September. Banner also is a restricted free agent, but the Steelers should be able to land him for a much lower price.
The only tackle with starting experience currently on the roster is Chuks Okorafor, who started 15 games at right tackle last season after Banner was injured.
Sutton stays put: The Steelers did manage to keep Cam Sutton — a cornerback on the roster, but perhaps best labeled broadly as a defensive back. He agreed to a two-year deal worth $9 million, a source told the Post-Gazette. Sutton, a 2017 third-round pick out of Tennessee, becomes the first cornerback drafted by the Steelers to receive a second contract from them since Cortez Allen in 2014.
It's a move that might not look like much to the rest of the NFL, but that's likely part of the reason why the Steelers were able to keep the 5-foot-11, 188-pound Sutton. He doesn't have the same kind of impressive statistics as fellow cornerback Mike Hilton, but he has been a jack of all trades in this defense, versatile enough to play outside cornerback, in the slot and even some safety.
That lack of a defined role might have limited Sutton's appeal to the other 31 teams, but it should set him up for two productive seasons in Pittsburgh. Sutton, who turned 26 last month, set career highs across the board last season with eight passes defended, three fumbles forced and 30 tackles. He also had one interception and one sack for the second season in a row.
But the most relevant number for Sutton might be 53, as in the percentage of defensive snaps he played in 2020. He never played more than a quarter of the snaps his first three seasons, but he replaced Hilton in four games and now figures to do so permanently.
Hilton is an unrestricted free agent as well, and with on-paper numbers nearly twice as high as Sutton, he'll likely land a major pay raise. Sutton, though, will now have even more of a chance to become a starter while continuing to serve as a top backup to Joe Haden and Steven Nelson.