The Steelers have some crucial free-agent decisions to make this offseason, including two pieces of their defense, which ranked fifth in yards per game allowed and points per game allowed and first in takeaways and sacks during the 2019 season.
Those two players are outside linebacker Bud Dupree and nose tackle Javon Hargrave.
While most feel Dupree — who posted a career-best 11.5 sacks, 16 tackles for a loss, 17 quarterback hits and 68 tackles (49 solo), four forced fumbles, two fumbles recoveries and three passes defended on 91 percent of the team's snaps in 2019 — will be the team's priority to re-sign, potentially via franchise tag, there's no doubt Hargrave played a key role in the defense's success last season.
Hargrave racked up four sacks, 60 tackles (35 solo), a forced fumble and six quarterback hits, playing a career-high 63 percent of the snaps in the process. After hiring super-agent Drew Rosenhaus, however, it appears Hargrave will want to cash in on his pass-rushing abilities, and it's likely another team will pay for them. He possesses a solid skill set at the position, and his production as a third-round draft pick has been better than expected from the jump.
Put plainly: Hargrave can play, and he's going to get paid — and probably not by the Steelers, who will be hamstrung by cap restraints, particularly if they do indeed re-invest in Dupree as expected.
ProFootballFocus.com certainly thinks Hargrave has played his last snap as a Steeler, but they don't see him leaving the AFC North. In a recent article, they predict Hargrave will sign with the division-rival Ravens on a four-year, $12 million-per-year deal with $28 million guaranteed. The Steelers won't be able to match those terms, and with the Ravens boasting a weak, bottom-five interior defensive line, the move makes too much sense.
Plus, it'll sting some of his former teammates just a touch to see him suit up in the purple and black on game days, an added bonus, no doubt.
Right now, it's just a guess, obviously, but it does make a whole lot of sense. Don't be surprised to see Hargrave leave the Steel City for Baltimore by the start of the 2020 season.