The Titans’ top two offseason acquisitions on defense came with injury tags, and each will begin the team’s training camp out of practice. Tennessee placed Bud Dupree on its active/PUP list and parked first-round pickCaleb Farley on its non-football injury list Saturday.
Both can be removed from these respective lists at any point during camp, and each designation was expected. Dupree is coming off a December ACL tear, while Farley missed Tennessee’s minicamp while recovering from offseason back surgery. Were Dupree to land on the Titans’ reserve/PUP list to start the regular season, he would miss the team’s first six games.
Dupree did not offer any clarity on his rehab timetable recently, and given the recovery time for ACL tears, it would not surprise if the ex-Steeler sack artist was held out of camp. Despite the injury and the pandemic-induced salary cap reduction, the Titans gave Dupree a five-year, $82.5MM deal that included $33.8MM fully guaranteed.
Farley has now undergone two back surgeries, with the second coming in March. The first-round cornerback initially encountered lower-back trouble while training ahead of Virginia Tech’s 2019 season, and after he excelled that fall to vault onto the first-round radar, the malady ended his second and final Hokies season early. Farley opted out of the 2020 season, but the Titans — as they did with Jeffery Simmons in 2019 — bet on talent and selected the standout defender 22nd overall. Farley received an NFI designation because his injury occurred before he entered the NFL.
In better Titans news, both A.J. Brown and Taylor Lewan avoided any injury-related designations heading into camp. Brown underwent surgery on both knees this offseason; Lewan is coming back from an ACL tear.
The Titans were among the worst teams in the league in terms of pressuring opposing quarterbacks in 2020, and to address those concerns, the team made an aggressive push for former Steelers edge defender Bud Dupree. Dupree ultimately signed a five-year, $82MM pact with Tennessee, a deal that included $34MM in guaranteed money and that raised a few eyebrows throughout the league.
After all, Dupree suffered an ACL tear in December that cut short his 2020 campaign and left his status for the upcoming season a little uncertain. Obviously, the Titans would not have made the kind of commitment they did if they were overly concerned about his prognosis, but we haven’t heard much news of any kind since he put pen to paper.
In an interview on the NFL Network today (h/t Charean Williams of Pro Football Talk), Dupree discussed the work he’s putting in, but he was unable to say when he might join his new teammates on the field.
“Just training hard every day right now, man,” he said. “ACL recovery, rehab, I mean, it’s been one of the most progress [sic] things I have dealt with so far. Each week you see different levels of progress. You see different things change in your body. So I’m working hard to be back as soon as I can, but that’s up to the coaching staff at the end of the day, like when they want me to be on the field and how comfortable they feel with me coming off the injury.”
Prior to the ACL tear, Dupree posted eight sacks in just 11 games, putting him on pace to match the 11.5 sacks he accumulated over a full season of work in 2019. Pro Football Focus assigned him a mediocre 60.2 overall grade last year, but he scored a much higher 77.7 mark in his 2019 breakout, which positioned him as the 23rd-best edge defender out of 104 qualifiers. If the Titans can get a little more out of their pass rush this season — and a healthy Dupree will go a long way towards that goal — they will be a threat to make a deep postseason run.
Thursday, 9:35pm: Dupree got a whopping five-year deal from Titans worth $82MM, including $34MM guaranteed (via Ben Volin of the Boston Globe on Twitter).
Monday, 7:39pm: The Titans’ pursuit of Dupree will produce a contract agreement. Dupree will sign with Tennessee, Pelissero and Ian Rapoport of NFL.com report (on Twitter). While the terms are not fully known, Rapoport tweets the former Steelers sack artist will receive $16.5MM annually on a multiyear deal.
7:14pm: In need of pass-rushing help, the Titans have identified a target. They are going after longtime Steelers edge defender Dupree, with NFL.com’s Mike Garafolo and Tom Pelissero reporting (via Twitter) Tennessee is making a strong push for the five-year vet.
The edge rusher market, deeper than in recent years, is moving fast. Leonard Floyd, Matt Judon and Yannick Ngakoue have chosen teams. The Titans are trying to close out a deal to take another outside pressure artist off the board.
The Browns are also in the mix for Dupree, per Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports (on Twitter). However, some in the Steelers organization expect Dupree to end up with the Titans.
Dupree’s deal will be interesting; he is still rehabbing from the ACL tear he suffered late in the regular season. The Steelers are not expected to re-sign the former first-round pick. They used their franchise tag on Dupree last season, and he has become a key part of a pass rush that has led the NFL in sacks from 2017-20. Dupree broke through in his initial contract year, registering 11.5 sacks in 2019. The Steelers saw the Kentucky alum post eight sacks in 11 games, but the knee injury will affect his market.
Missing out on J.J. Watt, the Browns may need to strike quickly on the edge rusher front. They have been rumored for weeks to be prepared to sign a big-name bookend for Myles Garrett. While the Browns have been connected to Von Miller, with the Broncos’ option decision on the future Hall of Famer still undetermined, but the free agent group is thinning.
Tennessee posted one of the worst third-down defensive efforts in modern NFL history last season, and GM Jon Robinson’s additions of Jadeveon Clowney and Vic Beasley failed. Dupree would represent a gamble, given his injury and inconsistency, but the Titans need to add help here to team with Harold Landry. Tennessee already agreed to terms with D-linemanDenico Autry; a Dupree add as well would help Landry and Jeffrey Simmons considerably.
Despite some whispers of a potential delay, the deadline for teams to place franchise tags on impending free agents was today at 5 p.m. CT. While a handful of players learned that they were slapped with the tag, a number of players naturally learned that they’ll be entering unrestricted free agency. We collected some of those notable players below:
The Steelers decided to not tag Bud Dupree, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter (via Twitter). The linebacker was hit with the tag last offseason. The former first rounder had another strong season for Pittsburgh, compiling eight sacks in only 11 games.
A pair of popular Seahawks players didn’t get franchised: running back Chris Carson (per NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero on Twitter) and cornerback Shaquill Griffin (per NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport on Twitter). The team is planning to (at least) make a pursuit at retaining Griffin, per Rapoport.
The Bengals didn’t franchise pass rusher Carl Lawson, per Rapoport (on Twitter). The former fourth rounder has collected 10.5 sacks over the past two seasons, with Rapoport opining that the lineman is “one of the NFL’s most underrated players” heading into free agency.
The Lions decided to not franchise Romeo Okwara, according to Rapoport (via Twitter). The 25-year-old had a breakout season in Detroit, setting career-highs in tackles (44) and sacks (10).
Despite leading the Cardinals with 12.5 sacks last season, Arizona didn’t franchise linebacker Haason Reddick (according to Schefter on Twitter). The former first-rounder also set career-highs in QB hits (16) and tackles for loss (15).
The Titans didn’t franchise tight end Jonnu Smith, per Schefter on Twitter. The 25-year-old has shown flashes during his brief NFL career, including a 2020 campaign where he set career-highs in receptions (41), receiving yards (448), and touchdowns (eight).
As a reminder, here are the players who have reportedly been tagged over the past 48 hours:
After being franchise-tagged last year, Matt Judon appears closer to hitting the market for the first time. The free agent-to-be has said a return to the Ravens would require circumstances to align perfectly, providing a clear indication a hometown discount will not be in the cards. Judon, though, is not ruling out a Ravens return. If the veteran edge rusher is to leave Baltimore, however, he may not be willing to sign with one of the league’s rebuilding teams. Judon said he wants to land with a winning team, per veteran NFL reporter Josina Anderson (on Twitter). The 29-year-old defender joins teammate Yannick Ngakoue, who did not see full-time action for the Ravens in the playoffs, and Shaquil Barrett and Bud Dupree as edge rushers eager to cash in after being tagged last year.
Here is the latest from the AFC North:
Carl Lawson is on the precipice of free agency for the first time, separating him from a few of this year’s UFA edge rushers. But the Bengals may not be willing to let him go. The Bengals are prepared to use their franchise tag on Lawson, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports notes. While some believe the team would rather tag cornerback William Jackson, more buzz has emerged about the team keeping the four-year defensive end cog. Although Lawson only tallied 5.5 sacks last season, his 32 quarterback hits ranked second in the NFL.
With the cap-strapped Steelersunlikely to tag anyone this year, they would need to extend Dupree before March 17 to keep him off the market. GM Kevin Colbert did not indicate Dupree would be prioritized. “We have to adjust and know that he might be a possibility, he might not be,” Colbert said, via SI.com. “We’re never going to eliminate a great player like Bud Dupree, because we don’t know what Bud’s market is, and Bud doesn’t know what his market is at this point.” The legal tampering period begins March 15. It is possible the 2021 salary cap number will not emerge until shortly before that date, complicating matters for teams hoping to extend big-ticket free agents.
Despite Zach Banner suffering a torn ACL in Week 1, Mike Tomlin informed the offensive tackle he had a path to regain a starting job in 2021. “Coach T looked at me and said, ‘You are my answer for 2021, so I need you to focus on your knee, don’t worry about anything else,’” Banner said, via The Athletic’s Mark Kaboly (subscription required). “That was the best thing that I could’ve heard.” Banner, Pittsburgh’s Week 1 right tackle starter, re-signed with the Steelers on a one-year, $1.75MM deal. A similar contract may be in the cards for the four-year veteran. The Steelers may be leaning toward letting Villanueva, their six-year left tackle starter, walk in free agency. One season remains on right tackle Chukwuma Okorafor‘s rookie contract.
December 3rd, 2020 at 10:26am CST by Zachary Links
Steelers edge rusher Bud Dupree has torn his ACL and will miss the remainder of the year, according to Mike Garafolo and Aditi Kinkhabwala of NFL.com (Twitter link). The Steelers will make it all official today by placing Dupree on the injured reserve list.
This is exactly what fans feared when Dupree hurt his left knee on a non-contact injury in the second quarter against the Ravens. The 27-year-old was a key part of the Steelers’ success this year, notching eight sacks, two forced fumbles, and 26 total stops. Without him, they’ll be leaning even more on T.J. Watt and they’ll need more production out of third-round rookie Alex Highsmith. With middle linebacker Devin Bush also done for the year, the Steelers will have to keep their streak alive without two key members of their front seven.
The Steelers kept Dupree from the open market with a one-year franchise tender for linebackers worth $15.8MM. It’s not clear whether Dupree succeeded in getting recategorized as a defensive end to make $17.8MM, but the end result is roughly the same. Dupree is on course for free agency, and the timing of his injury is not quite ideal.
Still, Dupree turned in a strong, complete season in 2019 with a career-high 11.5 sacks — 5.5 more than his previous single-season best. Dupree figures to be one of the most sought-after free agent edge options this year, second only to Yannick Ngakoue.
Dupree signed his tender earlier this offseason. He stands to make $15.8MM on the linebacker tag. This year’s defensive end tag is worth $17.8MM.
Regarding a long-term deal, Dupree and the Steelers are not close on numbers, per Rapoport. While Dupree did not submit a stunning breakout season in 2019, he did register a career-high 11.5 sacks — 5.5 more than the former first-round pick’s previous single-season best. It would make sense if the Steelers sought a rental season to see if the inconsistent pass rusher can replicate his 2019 performance.
The three 3-4 outside linebackers to be tagged this year — Barrett, Dupree and Matt Judon — have either filed grievances or saw a preemptive pay raise. The Ravens gave Judon a $1MM raise from the linebacker tag, agreeing to pay him $16.8MM on his tag this season. It doesn’t hurt for Dupree to push for a similar arrangement, even if the sixth-year defender does not win a grievance.
July 15: At 4:00 p.m., New York time, deadline for any club that designated a Franchise Player to sign such player to a multiyear contract or extension. After this date, the player may sign only a one-year contract with his prior club for the 2020 season, and such contract cannot be extended until after the club’s last regular season game.
With less than nine days remaining until the deadline, let’s take a look at where each of the 15 tagged players stand.
Earlier this month, we learned that there have been no recent contract talks between the Steelers and star defensive lineman Cameron Heyward, who is entering the final season of his current deal. Mark Kaboly of The Athletic believes Pittsburgh should make Heyward its top priority, even ahead of some of its younger talent that will be due for extensions soon, but that could be a tall order.
For one, the Steelers always spend to the cap and often push money into future seasons in order to stay cap compliant. As Kaboly observes, the team pushed $21MM of salary into the 2021 season, with the expectation that the salary cap would increase by at least $15MM next year. But the 2021 cap may be reduced as a result of the pandemic, which could put Pittsburgh in a bind.
Secondly, even without the pandemic, the club may have found it tough to keep the 31-year-old Heyward in the fold. A source tells Kaboly that Heyward could fetch Aaron Donald money on the open market, due to his overall excellent play and his ability to line up both inside and outside (plus, in 2019, Heyward graded out as Pro Football Focus’ second-best interior defender, behind only Donald himself). Heyward’s age could limit his payday a bit, but he is only two years older than Donald, who is playing on a six-year, $135MM deal that included $50MM guaranteed at signing. Though it would be surprising to see Heyward cash in to that degree, his next contract will certainly be massive in its own right, so the Steelers may have no other choice but to look elsewhere.
Likewise, Kaboly suggests that the Steelers will not extend outside linebacker Bud Dupree prior to the July 15 deadline for franchised players, and the team will almost assuredly not tag him against next season. Indeed, we haven’t heard of any contract talks between the two sides, and it looks as if Dupree will play out the 2020 campaign on his $16MM+ tender, with an eye towards hitting the open market in 2021.