How much would it cost to get outside linebacker Bud Dupree under contract? The former first-round pick, who signed a $16.5 million-per-year deal in 2021, is a free agent after the Tennessee Titans released him last week. He was successful when he was with the Pittsburgh Steelers. But they don’t need a starter.
They have that already in T.J. Watt, the superstar and one of the top players in all of football, and Alex Highsmith, who broke out last season with 14.5 sacks. So there’s no question that any deal for Dupree would have to come at a backup’s price with a backup’s role. But is that a good idea? Brooke Pryor of ESPN believes so.
“To me, if I’m the Steelers, it makes a ton of sense. Why would you not bring him in?”, she said during an appearance on 93.7 The Fan yesterday morning with Andrew Fillipponi and Chris Mueller. “I think that the money part of it is one of the question marks, but if you can bring a guy in who really thrived opposite of T.J. Watt, there is no downside to that”.
A 2015 first-round draft pick, Dupree didn’t really get to have a full season as a starter until 2017, and even then he battled injury. It wasn’t until his contract year in 2019 that he finally reached his potential with a Pro Bowl-caliber season, registering 11.5 sacks, 17 hits, and four forced fumbles. He was on pace for similar numbers a year later when he tore his ACL 11 games into the season.
Despite the injury, the Titans gave him a five-year, $82.5 million contract in 2021, even against a weakened salary cap due to the revenue losses stemming from the pandemic a year earlier. The deal included $33,750,000 guaranteed.
“Things didn’t work out in Tennessee, he was a good player, had some injury issues, all of that”, Pryor noted, “but this organization knows what he’s about and he’s a great locker room guy. I think he’s a great rotational guy to help with depth”.
Dupree only played in 22 games over two seasons for the Titans, registering seven sacks with 17 hits, eight tackles for loss, two forced fumbles, and one pass defensed in 850 snaps. Aside from the recovering knee injury in 2021, he also dealt with a separate knee injury that season as well as an abdominal injury. He had a hip injury a year ago, suffered in week two, one that lingered.
Back in Pittsburgh, he had a groin tear his second season, played through a shoulder injury all of his third season, of course tore his ACL in 2020, and had various other less significant injuries mixed in as well. Given his injury history, and his lack of production partly due to it the past two years, Dupree’s likely to have a rather soft market, making it more realistic that he could wind up back in Pittsburgh. The Steelers reportedly showed “preliminary interest” in a reunion.