Bud Dupree

AFC North Notes: Ravens, Steelers, Ossai

Lamar Jackson‘s foray as his own agent involved years of proposals and counterproposals, and while the former MVP received criticism for playing out his rookie contract, the Ravens rewarded their centerpiece player with a record-setting deal. That $52MM-per-year contract includes $135MM fully guaranteed. While that is not in the Deshaun Watson stratosphere — a range Jackson sought to enter — it places the sixth-year veteran second for full guarantees. One of Jackson’s proposals along the way included a three-year, $156MM fully guaranteed deal, Albert Breer of SI.com notes. The Ravens did not relent on term length, but Jackson’s proposal probably factored into the final result. By March 2024, Jackson will see his guarantee total balloon to $156MM.

The Ravens made a seismic bet Jackson (11 missed games since 2021) will stay healthy, as this contract locks them in through 2025 at least. Here is the latest from the AFC North:

  • While the Steelers drafted Joey Porter Jr. 32nd overall, he was in consideration for their first-round selection. Had the Steelers not traded up to draft tackle Broderick Jones at No. 14, The Athletic’s Mark Kaboly notes they likely would have chosen Porter at 17 (subscription required). Teams often paint rosy pictures of their draft plans in the aftermath, but Porter — who visited the Steelers’ facility, a place he is quite familiar with due to his father’s history with the team — was viewed as a first-round talent who slipped a bit. The Steelers did make it known the 32nd pick was available, and as Will Levis also fell out of Round 1, they received multiple offers. But they now have Jones and Porter in the fold.
  • Joseph Ossai‘s final-seconds hit on Patrick Mahomes may well have denied the Bengals a second straight Super Bowl berth, giving the Chiefs a better chance of avoiding overtime. Following Harrison Butker‘s game-winning field goal, Ossai headed toward a rehab-filled offseason. The edge rusher suffered a torn left shoulder labrum during a December game against the Browns and played hurt the rest of the way. Ossai, who had rebounded from a full-season rookie absence (due to a meniscus injury) to play 19 games last season, is expected to be ready for training camp, Kelsey Conway of the Cincinnati Enquirer tweets.
  • When the Steelers brought Bud Dupree in for a visit, they wanted to re-sign their former first-round pick back to a two-year deal, Kaboly adds. A previous report indicated the Steelers did not discuss terms with Dupree, but it does appear the club had a preferred contract range — one that would have helped keep the edge rusher’s 2023 cap number low. Dupree signed a one-year, $3MM Falcons deal that could spike to $5MM.
  • On the subject of contracts that did come to pass, Rock Ya-Sin‘s one-year Ravens deal will be worth $4MM. That amount is fully guaranteed, according to OverTheCap. This will give the former Colts and Raiders cornerback a chance to re-establish his value for a possible 2024 free agency bid.
  • Shifting back to Pittsburgh, the Steelers will see some front office turnover. Mark Gorscak, who has been with the team for 28 years, will retire from his scouting post this offseason, Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette notes. Also known for his role as the Combine’s 40-yard dash starter, Gorscak follows another Steelers staffer in place since the 1990s — assistant coach John Mitchell — as mainstays departing the team this offseason.
  • The Steelers are hiring former Raiders southeast area scout Zack Crockett to work in the same capacity, Aaron Wilson of KPRC2 tweets. Crockett, who enjoyed a 13-year career (mostly with the Raiders) as a fullback, spent the past 14 years as a Raiders scout. Las Vegas’ Dave Ziegler– and Josh McDaniels-led regime parted ways with Crockett, 50, earlier this offseason.

AFC North Notes: Steelers, Browns, Awuzie

Allen Robinson passing his physical will send him to a fourth NFL team. The Rams will assume much of Robinson’s 2023 payout — as a result of the three-year, $46.5MM deal they authorized in 2022 — and could only offload that contract for a 17-spot jump in the seventh round. The Steelers adjusted Robinson’s contract further before the trade became official, with Ian Rapoport of NFL.com indicating (via Twitter) the wide receiver will collect a $3.84MM signing bonus from his new team. That will help reduce his cap hit. As for 2024, Rapoport adds Robinson’s base salary will drop from $15MM to $10MM. Two void years are also present on Robinson’s Steelers deal, per OverTheCap, which indicates the 10th-year veteran will be tied to a $5MM cap number this year and a $10MM hit in 2024. While Robinson’s $5MM 2023 salary is locked in, nothing is guaranteed for 2024.

The Steelers sought an experienced option at receiver, per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Gerry Dulac, due to second-year players George Pickens and Calvin Austin being expected to play significant roles in 2023 (Twitter link). Robinson will join Diontae Johnson, who is going into his fifth season, as veteran options. This might lead to the Steelers addressing other positions with their Day 2 draft capital; the team has taken eight wideouts on the draft’s second day since 2013.

Here is the latest from the AFC North:

  • Four years after working together on a dysfunctional Browns team, Odell Beckham Jr. and Todd Monken reunited with the Ravens. Beckham said he and the recently hired Baltimore OC have a great relationship. In 2019, however, Monken served as a non-play-calling OC under Freddie Kitchens, who was fired after one season. Midway through that disappointing Browns slate, cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot notes Beckham initiated a clear-the-air meeting with Monken in an effort to move parties onto the same page. Browns wideouts perceived Kitchens and the team’s QBs at the time to be “cliquey,” and the disconnect led to shouting matches between wideouts and coaches. The Browns disbanded the Beckham-Baker Mayfield partnership midway through the 2021 season. Although Monken ran the offensive meetings during the week in 2019, Cabot adds the future Georgia staffer did not have much play-calling input. The Ravens will count on Monken, who now has a third NFL OC opportunity, and OBJ to elevate their offense next season.
  • Amari Cooper may miss some offseason time due to a core surgery he underwent this offseason. Cooper did not miss any games last season, but Cabot adds he underwent this procedure in February. Kevin Stefanski said the team will not rush Cooper back, so it stands to reason the ninth-year wideout may not be a full OTAs participant. Cooper, 28, put together his sixth 1,000-yard season in 2022; two years remain on his Cowboys-constructed contract.
  • It might take a bit longer for Chidobe Awuzie to return to work with the Bengals. The veteran cornerback suffered a torn ACL during a Halloween matchup against the Browns. He is targeting a return by Week 1, Kelsey Conway of the Cincinnati Enquirer tweets. The Bengals no longer have Eli Apple under contract, but they signed Sidney Jones in free agency. Jones joins Mike Hilton and Cam Taylor-Britt as the top healthy Bengal corners. One season remains on Awuzie’s deal.
  • While the Steelers gave Bud Dupree a physical, Dulac notes the former Pittsburgh first-rounder’s free agency visit did not include contract talks. Dupree, who played for the Steelers from 2015-20, signed a one-year, $3MM deal with the Falcons last week. A number of veteran edge rushers — Yannick Ngakoue, Frank Clark, Leonard Floyd and Jadeveon Clowney among them — remain unsigned. The Steelers will likely be seeking a low-cost option to be their third edge rusher behind T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith. Malik Reed held that role last year; Reed has since joined the Dolphins.

Falcons To Sign OLB Bud Dupree

Bud Dupree Steelers reunion will not take place this year. The veteran pass rusher is instead set to join the Falcons on a one-year deal (Twitter link via ESPN’s Adam Schefter). Ian Rapoport of NFL Network tweets that the contract has a maximum value of $5MM.

The 30-year-old joined the Titans in 2021 with massive expectations given his production in Pittsburgh. He failed to live up to them, however, and spent only two underwhelming campaigns in Nashville. Dupree was one of several veterans the Titans have moved on from this offseason, and he has spent the past few weeks weighing his options as he looks to rebuild his value.

That process included a visit with the Steelers, something which led to the belief that a deal sending him back to Pittsburgh could be forthcoming. It was with the Steelers that Dupree spent the first six years of his career, a stretch which included his 11.5-sack campaign in 2019. Injuries were among the reasons he was unable to replicate that success in Tennessee, though, and it comes as little surprise that he is inking a prove-it deal worth far less than the five-year, $82MM accord he landed the last time he was a free agent.

Pittsburgh remained a serious contender for Dupree, Schefter’s colleague Jeremy Fowler tweets. It was the latter’s insistence on a one (rather than two-year) pact which steered him away, however. As a result, he represents the latest significant addition made on defense by the Falcons, a team which has been busy on both the free agent and trade fronts in targeting upgrades on that side of the ball.

That has included the big-ticket signing of safety Jessie Bates and, more recently, the trade which allowed them to acquire cornerback Jeff Okudah from the Lions. Those deals will make an impact on the Falcons’ secondary, but Dupree will look to help the team’s pass rush, something which has been a significant weak spot in recent years. Atlanta recorded 21 sacks last season, the second-lowest figure in the league. Dupree’s form in Tennessee suggests he won’t make a massive impact on that total, but he will provide a noteworthy presence on the edge for the new-look defense.

Atlanta entered Friday with slightly more than $10.3MM in cap space, a figure which will drop considerably with this deal now in place. Even if it is the last notable one on the free agent front, the team is in line to take a considerable step forward on defense in particular in 2023. Dupree, meanwhile, will look to put together a healthy campaign for the first time since 2019 and earn himself a new deal next offseason in the process.

OLB Bud Dupree To Visit Steelers

Bud Dupree‘s time with the Titans didn’t go according to plan, but a return to a familiar team could be in the cards. The veteran edge rusher is set to visit the Steelers, as noted (on Twitter) by ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler.

Dupree spent the first six years of his career in Pittsburgh, and he enjoyed considerable career growth during that time. A first-round pick in 2015, he was a full-time starter by his third season and a key producer by the end of his rookie contract. Playing on the fifth-year option, the Kentucky product posted a career-best 11.5 sacks in 2019, and followed that up with another eight on the franchise tag the following season.

Those totals made Dupree a hot commodity on the open market, and earned him a massive deal with the Titans. That five-year, $82MM contract carried hefty expectations for player and team, but Dupree struggled to stay healthy during his time in Nashville. He was limited to 11 contests in both of his Titans campaigns, and, more worryingly, failed to produce at the level he showed he was capable of during his time in Pittsburgh.

Dupree totaled only seven sacks with the Titans, putting up underwhelming pressure numbers relative to his contract. It thus came as little surprise when Tennessee released him in a cost-cutting move earlier in the offseason. That allowed the Titans to turn their attention elsewhere in the edge rush department, leaving Dupree as one of several veteran pass rushers on the open market this year.

Now 30, he could be well-served to return to the Steelers. The team has T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith at the top of their depth chart, with the latter entering the final year of his rookie contract. That tandem has proved highly effective for Pittsburgh, though their defensive pressure fell considerably when Watt was sidelined early in the 2022 season. Dupree could serve as a high-end insurance policy and experienced rotational rusher in the event he agreed to a short-term deal worth far less than what he received the last time he was a free agent.

Titans Expected To Release OLB Bud Dupree

Bud Dupree came to the Titans two seasons ago, but his time in Nashville appears to be coming to an early end. Tennessee is expected to release the veteran pass rusher, reports NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport (on Twitter).

Dupree enjoyed a productive six-year tenure in Pittsburgh to begin his career. That stint included playing the 2019 season on the fifth-year option, and the following campaign on the franchise tag. He racked up 19.5 sacks over that span, making him one of the top edge rushers on the market in 2021.

The Titans won out the competition to sign Dupree, inking him to a five-year, $82MM deal. That marked a major addition to the team’s pass-rushing corps, and led to substantial expectations. Instead, the former first-rounder has struggled to stay healthy during his time in Tennessee. An ACL tear suffered at the end of his Steelers career made the hefty Titans deal an even more surprising one, and has been followed by consecutive 11-game seasons. A chest injury landed him on IR in 2022.

More importantly, a lack of production will spur this parting of ways. Dupree has recorded only seven sacks during his two seasons with the Titans, a team which was desperate for help getting to the quarterback upon his signing. Cutting Dupree will result in $9.3MM in cap savings if done immediately, though that figure would jump to $15.75MM if designated as a post-June 1 release. The Kentucky product was due to carry cap hits ranging from $18.7MM to $20.2MM in the three years remaining on his pact.

Moving on from Dupree would mark an unsurprising development on the Titans’ part, and it would add further to the plethora of cost-cutting moves they have already made this offseason. Tennessee has parted ways with left tackle Taylor Lewan, receiver Robert Woods, kicker Randy Bullock and linebacker Zach Cunningham. Those decisions helped their cap situation considerably, but left them with a number of roster holes to fill. The same will of course be true if they do indeed subtract Dupree from a defense which ranked in the bottom half of the league with 39 sacks last season.

If Dupree were to hit the open market, he would get a slight head start on free agency compared to other edge rushers who won’t be eligible to sign until the new league year starts next week. The 2023 class is headlined by the likes of Yannick Ngakoue, Marcus Davenport, Jadeveon Clowney and Samson Ebukam.

Titans Place Ryan Tannehill, Bud Dupree, Zach Cunningham On IR

While Ryan Tannehill had been attempting to find a way to come back from his nagging ankle injury this season, the Titans are effectively shutting that effort down.

Tennessee placed Tannehill on IR on Thursday, and linebackers Bud Dupree and Zach Cunningham will join him on the league’s most populated IR list. All three players must miss a minimum of four games. Given the direction of Tennessee’s season, each is almost certainly done.

Mike Vrabel had attempted to go week to week with his starting quarterback, but a report last week indicated the ankle aggravation Tannehill suffered in Los Angeles was set to end his season. Tannehill, who missed two games with the ankle ailment earlier this year, went down again against the Chargers in Week 15 and needed to be carted off the field. He somehow managed to come back against the Bolts, scoring a game-tying touchdown late in the fourth quarter.

Tannehill, 34, underwent ankle surgery last week but had maintained efforts to potentially come back again. Instead, it will be Joshua Dobbs — signed last week off the Lions’ practice squad — taking the reins against the Cowboys tonight. It is uncertain if the Titans are merely going to Dobbs because of a conservation effort for a do-or-die Week 18 matchup against the Jaguars or if Malik Willis has indeed been benched. Willis has made three starts in relief of Tannehill but has struggled throughout his rookie year.

The Titans have Tannehill signed to a four-year, $118MM extension that runs through next season. The former Dolphins top-10 pick is due a $27MM base salary and is set to count more than $36MM against Tennessee’s cap. Tannehill is attached to a $38.6MM 2022 cap hit and has played with a far worse receiving situation compared to his previous Titans slates. Over the past two offseasons, the Titans have let Corey Davis walk and traded A.J. Brown. Ready replacements — a concern at this season’s outset — have not emerged, playing a major role in the team’s five-game losing streak.

Tennessee would save nearly $19MM by trading or releasing Tannehill next year, with that number rising with a post-June 1 release designation. Then again, the Titans have not exactly seen much from Willis — a third-round pick this year — to indicate he would be ready to take over. This season has marked Tannehill’s first injury-marred campaign with Tennessee. Knee injuries hounded the Texas A&M product in Miami, but since replacing Marcus Mariota in October 2019, Tannehill did not miss a game as a Titan until this season.

Dupree has been unable to escape injuries as a Titan. Signed to a lucrative deal despite coming off a November 2020 ACL tear, Dupree has missed 10 games with Tennessee. The former first-round pick has totaled just seven sacks in two seasons with the Titans, who needed more from the ex-Steeler after Harold Landry went down with an ACL tear just before the season. A chest injury will lead Dupree to IR this time.

The Titans just activated Cunningham from IR last week, bringing him back after he missed time with an elbow injury. He will head back to the injured list with an elbow injury. Tennessee claimed Dupree off waivers from Houston late last season and has used him exclusively as a starter. Injuries, however, will limit Cunningham to six games this season. The former second-round pick will likely become a cap-casualty candidate; the Titans could save more than $9MM by releasing the 28-year-old defender next year.

In addition to Tannehill, Dupree and Cunningham, Tennessee’s IR contingent includes the following players: Landry, Taylor Lewan, Ben Jones, Nate Davis, David Long, Elijah Molden, Caleb Farley, Dillon Radunz and Terrance Mitchell. Amy Adams Strunk cited the team’s recent injury problems as a reason for GM Jon Robinson‘s ouster months after his extension. After using an NFL-record 91 players last season, the Titans will end this one approaching that mark.

Titans To Start Joshua Dobbs Vs. Cowboys

The Titans are not exactly going into Thursday night’s Cowboys game with a clear intent to win. The injury-plagued team is planning to rest numerous starters, with a Week 18 date against the Jaguars set to determine its playoff fate.

But Tennessee will make an interesting change at quarterback. Rather than give Malik Willis more reps in his rookie season, the Titans are preparing to start recent acquisition Joshua Dobbs, Justin Melo of The Draft Network tweets. Tennessee brought in Dobbs on Dec. 21, with Ryan Tannehill out with an ankle injury. Tannehill is not expected to return this season, though the starter has not shut it down just yet.

A former Tennessee Volunteer, Dobbs has bounced around in the pros. The sixth-year backup has been with three teams just this year, moving from Cleveland to Detroit to Nashville over the past month. The former fourth-round pick has not thrown any regular-season passes this season; his most recent game work came in 2020 with the Steelers. The Browns signed Dobbs this offseason and used him as Jacoby Brissett‘s backup for much of the year, but once Deshaun Watson was eligible to play, Cleveland cut bait. Dobbs landed in Detroit, but Tennessee poached him from the Lions’ practice squad.

Dobbs has seen most of his NFL work come in the preseason, and the Titans’ Week 17 lineup will have the look of an August matchup. Tennessee placed O-line starters Nate Davis and Ben Jones on IR last week, and the team will be without right tackle starter Nicholas Petit-Frere against Dallas. With Taylor Lewan out of the picture, the Titans will deploy basically a second-string O-line tonight. While Willis’ early work points to extensive development being needed, the Titans may be leery of putting the third-round pick behind this set of blockers against a top-tier Cowboys pass rush.

In an arrangement that will surely test Al Michaels’ patience, Titans will also sit Jeffery Simmons, Denico Autry, Amani Hooker, Bud Dupree and Zach Cunningham. Oh, and they are unlikely to deploy Derrick Henry, who is doubtful with a hip injury. This sets up an unusual Week 17 and an odd Week 18 plan. The Titans look like they will be trying to salvage their season in Jacksonville next week on the heels of a six-game losing streak. Even if the Titans drop to 7-9 tonight, the AFC South will be on the line next week.

Willis has shown some promise in the run game but has looked woefully overmatched through the air. The mid-major product has not eclipsed 100 passing yards in any of his three pro starts and has a 0-3 TD-INT ratio on 61 pass attempts. It will be interesting if the Titans turn back to Willis or go with Dobbs (17 career attempts) against the Jaguars, when they reconvene for relevant football, next week.

AFC Injuries Update: Titans, Paye, Edmunds, Poyer

Injuries continue to bite the Titans on the defensive side of the ball. This week, the team will play without three starters as head coach Mike Vrabel has ruled out safety Amani Hooker, edge rusher Bud Dupree, and linebacker Zach Cunningham, according to Turron Davenport of ESPN.

The Titans already have six players on injured reserve from the defense alone, as well as five more from the offense. Vrabel also announced that the team will sit linebackers Olasunkanmi Adeniyi and Joseph Jones, as well. This all in addition to the recent loss of rookie wide receiver Treylon Burks to IR.

Tennessee has elevated practice squad linebacker Joe Schobert and wide receiver Dez Fitzpatrick to make up for the loss of Cunningham and Burks, respectively. Dupree and Hooker’s absences will likely mean more playing time for second-year linebacker Rashad Weaver and backup safeties Joshua Kalu and Ugo Amadi. Amadi has some starting experience from his time with the Seahawks.

Here are a few other injury updates from around the AFC, starting with a division rival of the Titans:

Titans To Be Without Taylor Lewan, Bud Dupree In Week 3

As the Titans prepare for a matchup between 0-2 teams coming off playoff appearances, their Raiders tilt will not include Taylor Lewan or Bud Dupree. Tennessee ruled out both starters for Week 3.

Lewan’s absence is not especially surprising, but it certainly will sting a Titans offense that already moved on from two 2021 O-line starters — including veteran guard Rodger Saffold — this offseason. Lewan went down with a knee injury on the first play of Monday night’s loss to the Bills. Mike Vrabel said this week Dupree’s injury was not expected to keep him out in the long term, but the veteran pass rusher will miss at least one game.

The Lewan injury concerns a bit more due to it being the same knee on which he underwent surgery in 2020. Lewan missed 11 games in 2020 because of an ACL tear on his right knee. He returned for Week 1 of the 2021 season and played 13 games, but the 31-year-old blocker’s status may be up in the air for the near future.

While Vrabel offered a timetable for Dupree, he did not answer a question regarding Lewan’s timeline Friday. Lewan remains on Tennessee’s 53-man roster. The three-time Pro Bowl left tackle’s $16MM-per-year deal runs through 2023. Dennis Daley, whom the Titans acquired from the Panthers just before their roster cutdown to 53, is set to start at left tackle. Daley replaced Lewan on Monday and spent much of his 2019 rookie season as the Panthers’ blindside starter.

On its own, Dupree’s hip injury would not concern quite as much. But the Titans are without Harold Landry (ACL) for the season. Dupree, who joined Lewan in suffering an ACL tear in 2020, also battled back to start in Week 1 last year. But the ex-Steelers first-rounder missed six games in 2021 as well. The $16.5MM-per-year pass rusher will miss more time now.

Tennessee will also be without auxiliary pass rusher Ola Adeniyi, who started in Week 1 and came off the bench against the Bills. Despite their mounting injury issues at edge rusher, the Titans opted not to promote Takkarist McKinley from their practice squad this week. That led to the Rams poaching him.

AFC South Notes: Colts, Dupree, Texans

Shaquille Leonard undergoing back surgery midway through the offseason seemed to put his early-season availability in question. Although the Colts‘ mid-June expectation was for Leonard to be back near the start of training camp, he remains on the team’s active/PUP list. Leonard should be expected to come off that list soon, as not doing so would mean four missed games, but Frank Reich does not expect his top linebacker to be 100% when he returns.

I think when he gets cleared, he’s not going to be 100% and he’s going to have to work his way back into it,” Reich said, via ESPN.com’s Stephen Holder (on Twitter). “… He’s going to have to figure out how to play feeling the way he feels — not feeling 100%, feeling like maybe this isn’t all the way back but I still gotta figure out how to play winning football.”

The nerve issue for which Leonard underwent surgery affected him in 2021, leading to calf and ankle problems. Leonard still earned his third first-team All-Pro honor — during a season in which he intercepted four passes and led the NFL with eight forced fumbles — but the prospect of another season being impacted by the injury is somewhat concerning for the fifth-year star.

Here is the latest from the AFC South:

  • Bud Dupree pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor assault charge in connection with a January incident at a Walgreens, TMZ reports. The Titans outside linebacker turned himself in on a assault-fear of bodily injury charge in February. Police said Dupree grabbed a 20-year-old Walgreens employee, attempted to take his phone and fled the scene. The employee allegedly heckled Dupree and threatened to spit on the women accompanying the veteran pass rusher, according to TMZ. Dupree, who is set for his second Titans season, faces a potential suspension under the NFL’s personal conduct policy.
  • Dennis Kelly joined Leonard in undergoing a summer surgery. The veteran Colts tackle recently had a procedure done on one of his knees, Mike Chappell of CBS4 tweets. Kelly is competing for a swing job in Indianapolis, which is making another transition at left tackle. Matt Pryor and third-round rookie Bernhard Raimann are vying to be the team’s blindside starter. Kelly, who signed a one-year deal worth $1.27MM, has made 51 career starts. The 11th-year vet’s $75K guarantee obviously does not guarantee him a roster spot, and this surgery keeping him out of action for a stretch will not help his cause.
  • The Texans added Jarrod James to their coaching staff as an offensive assistant, Aaron Wilson of ProFootballNetwork.com tweets. James interned with the Chiefs, Vikings and Ravens in the late 2010s and had been working as Michigan State’s assistant offensive line coach this year.