When the Tennessee Titans (7-8) took the field against the Dallas Cowboys (11-4) at Nashville’s Nissan Stadium on Dec. 29, the home team was without ex-Steelers linebacker Bud Dupree. Earlier in the day, the Titans placed Dupree on injured reserve with a chest injury, one which will keep him out through the remainder of the regular season and two postseason games.
‘Very Possible’ That Bud Dupree’s Titans Career is Over
Many Titans fans reacted to the news by bidding the former Steelers 1st-round pick goodbye, assuming that he will be released after the season comes to an end, despite having three seasons remaining on his five-year contract.
“Bye bye Bud,” tweeted one individual. “We gave you a try, didn’t work out. Good luck with your next team.”
Another fan admonished Dupree for having “robbed the Titans,” a reference to the $82.5 million contract that Dupree signed with Tennessee in free agency in March 2021.
Titans media was a little more sanguine about the situation, with Mike Moraitis of USA Today noting that while Dupree has “shown flashes of being a difference-maker for (the Titans) defense, injuries have led to a very disappointing tenure overall.” It’s one that has been limited to 22 regular season games and just 17 starts.
“We’ve likely seen the last of Bud Dupree and Zach Cunningham with the Titans and I am totally okay with that,” added Smashville Sports.
Last but not least, one Tennessee fan couldn’t resist being facetious, sending a tweet in which he referenced Dupree and Titans rookie quarterback Malik Willis, the latter of whom was benched for the Cowboys game in favor of former Steelers quarterback Josh Dobbs.
Bud Dupree’s 2023 Cap Hit is More Than $20 Million
With the Titans in the middle of a five-game losing streak and unlikely to make a deep playoff run, it’s certainly reasonable to assume that Dupree has played his last game for Tennessee.
Money is the other issue. According to overthecap.com, Dupree carries the 2nd-highest salary cap hit among Titans players in 2021 at $19.2 million, with starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill the only player above him on the ledger.
But Dupree’s cap hit rises to $20.2 million (8.9% of the team’s cap) in 2023, which is an awful lot of money for a player who has produced a total of 35 tackles (27 solo) — with seven sacks, 17 quarterback hits, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries, as per Pro Football Reference — over the course of two seasons.
But with only $1.25 million of his $17 million 2023 salary guaranteed, the Titans can release Dupree before June 1 of next year by incurring a $10.85 million dead money cap charge.
Meanwhile, Dupree — who turns 30 on Feb 12, 2023 — will work to rehab from the chest injury he suffered during Tennessee’s home loss to the Houston Texans on Christmas Eve. Earlier in the season he missed four games with hip injuries, which first became an issue during Tennessee’s Week 2 loss at Buffalo.
Dupree also struggled with injuries during his first season with the Titans in 2021, when he made just six starts and missed six games while struggling to recover from the torn ACL he suffered with the Steelers in December 2020.
Bud Dupree’s Replacement is a Rising Star
As for Bud Dupree’s replacement in Pittsburgh, that would be 2020 third-round pick Alex Highsmith, who has started 31 of a possible 32 games since Dupree left town. Better yet, he has taken his game to a new level in 2022, contributing 52 tackles (32 solo), including 10 tackles for loss, 12 sacks, 17 quarterback hits and five forced fumbles. That said, it was something of a surprise that Dupree did not earn Pro Bowl honors, which many observers viewed as a snub.
That said, the Steelers may well try to sign Highsmith to a contract extension in the offseason, a year before he is scheduled to hit unrestricted free agency in early 2024.