NASHVILLE — Tennessee Titans GM Jon Robinson played the “long” game on Monday before signing outside linebacker Bud Dupree. Tennessee’s top personnel executive waited an interminable six and a half hours to make a move.

Give the man credit, though. When Robinson swings, he swings big.

NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport sniffed out Robinson’s first signing once the NFL’s legal tampering period opened at 11 AM CT. The Titans signed former Colts defensive tackle Denico Autry to a three-year deal worth $21.5 million. It was the first of three moves Robinson made to address positions of desperate need in Tennessee.

The crown jewel, of course, is the acquisition of Dupree. His reported five-year contract locks him in on the Titans defense for a solid $82.5 million. $35 million of that comes fully guaranteed.

What is Bud Dupree worth?

The going rate for the former Pittsburgh Steeler is $16.5 million annually, apparently.

Dec 2, 2020; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Baltimore Ravens running back Gus Edwards (35) carries the ball against Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Bud Dupree (48) during the first quarter at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Of the edge players who Tennessee also considered to bolster their front seven, Robinson gave Dupree the most substantive offer. 16 edge players agreed to terms as of Monday night. The Titans made the longest term commitment of any team to a free agent in signing Dupree. Only Shaq Barrett’s extension in Tampa Bay exceeds Dupree in guaranteed money ($36 million) and average annual ($17 million).

This was a move Robinson absolutely had to make.

The Titans GM first secured Autry while the organization sat back and monitored how Monday’s edge market manifested. Matt Judon’s deal with the New England Patriots was the first of the major position dominos to fall. New England’s deal allowed Robinson to better gauge a fair offer for their target of choice and capitalize. Once Dupree agreed to terms, it came as no surprise that Carl Lawson (Jets) and Trey Hendrickson (Bengals) were quick to follow.

According to ESPN’s Seth Walder, Dupree was tied for first with former Steel City teammate T.J. Watt in fastest average pass rush get off (0.72). Tennessee’s desperation for an impact player across from Harold Landry in 2021 came at a near-perfect time.

Yes, this year’s salary cap took a $15.7 million haircut due to pandemic losses. This free agent pass rush class, however, had precisely the depth and top end talent to keep Robinson’s Titans competitive. Dupree tore his ACL last December and finished with eight sacks, 12 hurries and seven quarterback knockdowns in 11 games. In 2019 the 6-foot-4, 269-pound pass rusher finished with a career-best 11.5 sacks.

His presence will be a god send for a Tennessee defense that allowed opponents to convert an NFL-worst 51.8% on third downs.

Oct 25, 2020; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry (22) is tackled for a loss by Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Bud Dupree (48) during the first halfat Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Are the Tennessee Titans better?

Decidedly so.

Roster attrition was absolutely expected with league finances being what they were. With the cap down at $182.5 million this offseaon, the Titans had long acknowledged behind closed doors that paying out extensions was not in the cards. Defensively, Robinson and coach Mike Vrabel had largely been looking to wipe their roster slate clean. Tennessee’s remaining unrestricted free agents Jayon Brown, Desmond King, DaQuan Jones and Jadeveon Clowney are not expected to be back with the team.

Losing tight end Jonnu Smith and wide receiver Corey Davis to the Patriots and Jets respectively will hurt. Pressure will fall on Ryan Tannehill, Derrick Henry and A.J. Brown to keep a Titans offense that scored over 30 points per game last year afloat. The goal for Robinson this offseason, however, was to achieve balance.

Special teams still needs to be sorted out, but the signings of Autry and Dupree make Tennessee a more well-rounded football team.


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