The Tennessee Titans are expected to release former Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Bud Dupree at the start of the new league year. The timing is intentional for reasons pertaining the salary cap that don’t need to be delved into for our purposes at this time. The question is, what are the odds he finds his way back to Pittsburgh?
Would the Steelers be interested? Presumably so, at least based on the past. They did franchise tag him once, though they were never in the market for the big deal the Titans gave him. It wasn’t even a realistic possibility. But if he could be had on a one-year, $4-5 million deal?
The man who took over his job would welcome it. Alex Highsmith was asked about what Dupree meant to him during his rookie season in 2020 and what it would mean if they were to reunite back in Pittsburgh. “If it were to happen, that would definitely be a three-headed monster for sure”, he said recently during an interview with the House of Yinzer podcast.
Granted, he was fed the line ‘three-headed monster’ by the question that was asked, but he did repeat it. “I’m just thankful to have played with him when I did, but if he does [come back], it would be a three-headed monster”, he said at the end of his reply.
Himself a 2015 first-round draft pick, Dupree took a few years to fully develop—and to get healthy as well, and to be on the right side where he was more comfortable—but his last two seasons in Pittsburgh were very strong.
That’s why he got a very robust five-year, $82.5 million contract from the Titans in 2021, which is very significant given that that was the down year for the salary cap coming out of the COVID-19 season in which teams played to empty stadiums. And he was recovering from a torn ACL all the while.
Now the obvious must be stated that Dupree hasn’t looked like the same player who signed that deal. It’s one of the primary reasons he’s about to be released 40 percent of the way through it. But he should have enough left in the tank to be a quality rotational pass rusher behind T.J. Watt and Dupree.
His market will be critical. If anybody views him as a full-time starter, that alone should be enough to price him out of what they might be willing and able to supply. But they saw what they lacked in depth last year, and what they tried and failed to have in 2021 with Melvin Ingram.
It doesn’t hurt that the three linebackers always had a good relationship, even if Highsmith and Dupree didn’t know each other for long, just the 2020 season. Yet Highsmith praised his helpfulness, even after Dupree tore his ACL late in the year and the rookie was forced to play in his stead.
They were locker mates back then. Might he appreciate the opportunity to return to the Steelers organization, even if it meant accepting a backseat role? He’ll have to come in with eyes open, unlike Ingram, because there will be no question who is starting and who is coming off the bench.