Former Steelers draft pick deemed one of the NFL’s most overpaid players

Bud Dupree #48 of the Tennessee Titans. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images)
Bud Dupree #48 of the Tennessee Titans. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images) /

Bleacher Report recently broke down the nine most overpaid players in the NFL entering the 2022 season. Here’s why former Steelers EDGE Bud Dupree made the list.

During the 2020 offseason, there was an actual debate going on between the football media as to whether or not the Pittsburgh Steelers should sign Bud Dupree to a contract extension. I think it’s safe to say that we got the last laugh.

At the time, I argued that extending Dupree was a move that was impossible to justify. The Steelers were extremely tight against the cap and we knew that a much better, much more important player in T.J. Watt would need a contract extension the following season.

Pittsburgh simply could not afford to dump nearly $45 million per year into the edge defender position between Dupree and Watt, and the latter was an easy choice.

Though many fans were disappointed with the decision to let Dupree walk away, the Steelers dodged a bullet here. Recently, Bleacher Report’s Ian Wharton published an article detailing the nine most overpaid players in the NFL entering the 2022 season. Dupree was 6th on the list.

Here is some of what Wharton had to say about the questionable decision the Titans made when it came to signing Bud Dupree:

"Months after tearing his ACL in a contract year with the Pittsburgh Steelers, edge-rusher Bud Dupree netted one of the top deals in free agency with the Tennessee Titans.While ACL injuries may not be as feared as they once were, Tennessee bet the farm that Dupree was its missing defensive piece to a deeper playoff run. Unfortunately, injuries to several key players across the roster made it impossible for him to prove himself as such.Nevertheless, his deal remains one of the league’s most fascinating. The Titans structured his contract so his cap number was only $5.1 million in Year 1 but will jump to $19.2 million this season. Only two other edge-rushers have a higher cap number in 2022."

If you recall, Dupree was coming off a 2020 season in which he tore his ACL in Week 12 against the Baltimore Ravens. Despite this injury occurring late in the year and needing ample time to recover, the Titans were willing to throw a massive 4-year, $77.3 million contract his way ($17.25 million guaranteed), according to Over the Cap.

Former Steelers EDGE is grossly overpaid

So far, this has been a colossal mistake. Even before the major knee injury, I viewed Dupree as just an above-average starter. While he was a quality run-defender for Pittsburgh, it was very easy to tell that Dupree was suddenly thriving because of his situation.

With a perennial All-Pro drawing the pressure in T.J. Watt, Dupree’s task was relatively easy as the right edge defender. As a result of extensive playing time and favorable matchups, the former 2015 first-round pick finally developed into a productive player in 2019 and 2020.

However, now that Dupree is essentially on his own, we are starting to see his true colors. As a pass rusher, Dupree has always been a pretty stiff player. Despite a great explosion off the snap, Dupree lacked finesse, bend, and pass rush moves.

In his first season with the Titans in 2021, Dupree earned just 17 tackles, 3.0 sacks, and 2 tackles for a loss in 11 games, via Pro Football Reference. Remarkably, former Steelers edge defender Ola Adeniyi — who also played with Tenessee in 2021 — earned 2.5 sacks and 2 tackles for a loss on nearly 200 fewer defensive snaps, according to PFR.

In his article, Wharton admitted that Dupree was still a decent run defender at times, but that’s not what should make him one of the highest-paid edge defenders in the league. Because of the way that the Titans structured his contract, Dupree is set to have a cap number of $19.2 million this year. That number then inflates to $20.2 million in 2023 at 30 years old.

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There’s simply no way you can justify paying an average edge defender that much money. I agree with Wharton that Dupree has one of the worst contracts entering the 2022 season. He’s really going to have to prove himself this year or he’s a candidate to be cut as early as the 2023 offseason.