Is Bud Dupree a risk worth taking for the Carolina Panthers?

(Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports) Bud Dupree
(Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports) Bud Dupree /

Could the Carolina Panthers take a gamble on Bud Dupree’s health in 2021 free agency?

It’s going to be a pivotal few weeks ahead for the Carolina Panthers as they look to acquire further talent in their pursuit of progression in 2021. Plenty of recent cuts were expected to free-up some vital salary-cap space in the current climate. But what sort of moves they make could be the difference between success and failure next season.

This is something the Panthers have to get right. Owner David Tepper wants to start seeing some return on his substantial financial investment and Carolina’s loyal fanbase is becoming increasingly restless after years of perennial underachievement since their Super Bowl 50 appearance.

Considering the predicament teams across the league find themselves in due to COVID-19, there could be more sacrifices than usual as franchises comply with the new cap figure that will be a minimum of $180 million and might go even higher.

This could mean there are some bargains to be had in free agency. So it will be up to general manager Scott Fitterer and head coach Matt Rhule to come up with the right recruits that can help in the short and long-term.

One name that will enter their discussion is Bud Dupree. The ferocious outside linebacker might have some substantial injury concerns to answer after tearing up his knee late in the 2020 campaign and considering how much the Pittsburgh Steelers need to trim off their books, it’s highly unlikely the player will get another deal.

Bud Dupree ticks all the boxes for Carolina Panthers.

At least before his injury, Dupree was regarded as one of the NFL’s best at the position. A lot of Pittsburgh’s struggles down the stretch and in their eventual postseason defeat to the Cleveland Browns stemmed from his absence, so it looks to be a solid pickup whoever ends up bringing him to their organization.

The former No. 22 overall selection is the latest in a long line of players who turned out on the franchise tag and jeopardized their future income. It’s not hard to see why this method of keeping a veteran from leaving is becoming less popular and is something the Panthers might have to use on right tackle Taylor Moton is a long-term extension cannot be agreed in time.

Much will depend on what the timeframe is regarding Dupree coming back.

Injuries such as his normal take between 8-12 months of rehabilitation, which could mean the player isn’t available until the second half of the 2021 campaign, at the earliest.

Whether this is something the Panthers decide to wait for is up for debate.

They need immediate assistance from their free-agent recruits as they look to improve on two consecutive 5-11 seasons. But it’s hard not to look at Dupree and come to any other conclusion than he’d be a tremendous help.

That is, of course, if he can get back to his old self after such a bad injury.

Dupree has notched 39.5 sacks, 231 tackles, 65 quarterback hits, 54 tackles for loss, eight forced fumbles, 11 passes defended, and one interception over his six-year stint with the Steelers. He gained the same amount of pressures – 28 – in 2020 as he did all of last season having played five fewer games. So it might be a risk worth taking for Carolina providing the price is right.

This is just one avenue they could go down in the high-risk category. However, the reward could be substantial if the Panthers end up taking the plunge on Dupree.