We’ll be breaking down all the major and minor moves for NFL Free Agency with grades and analysis. You can find the comprehensive list of moves and grades here.
Autry: Three years/$21.5 million with $9 million guaranteed
Dupree: Five years/up to $82 million with $35 million guaranteed
The Tennessee Titans finished the 2020 season with 19 sacks, above only the Jacksonville Jaguars and Cincinnati Bengals. Tennessee was 28th in pressure rate, according to Sports Info Solutions. Big signings of Vic Beasley and Jadeveon Clowney did not work out as planned, but the Titans went back to the well trying to reshape the pass rush in one offseason.
Autry has been an underrated piece of the Indianapolis defensive line, but his 2020 play was not close to what his 7.5 sacks would suggest. Autry ranked 98th in pressure rate among 124 DE/LBs with at least 150 pass rushes. He only had 10 quarterback hits that turned into those 7.5 sacks.
Last year, Autry moved out to the edge more with the addition of DeForest Buckner but in 2019, he ranked eighth in Pass Rush Win Rate among defensive tackles when he played more inside. He could play the interior more with Tennessee, next to Jeffery Simmons, which could create a bigger advantage for him as a pass rusher. With just $9 million guaranteed, the Titans aren’t taking that big of an investment in previously proven interior help.
Dupree would be the added star on the edge, what the Titans hoped Clowney could be last season. After a slow start to his career, Dupree broke out in 2019 with 11.5 sacks on 17 quarterback hits — a 68% conversion rate, well above the ~40% league average. He had eight sacks on 15 hits (53.3%) through 11 games before a torn ACL ended his season.
The Titans are taking a big bet on Dupree not only returning to form — his game has been based on plus-athleticism — but also the ability to keep converting sacks at a higher than average rate. The total numbers aren’t yet clear for Dupree with just “up to” $82 million as the listed total, but $35 million guaranteed, likely in the first two years, does touch close to the $16.5 million average. That’s top pass rusher money.
For Dupree, it’s not as if he’ll be playing alone on a defensive line after leaving T.J. Watt. Harold Landry has been a productive pass rusher and did most things on his own last season as he ranked ninth among edge rushers in Pass Rush Win Rate. As a second-round pick, Landry is set to play on the fourth and final year of his rookie contract in 2021.
The Titans needed the most help here and could still use secondary help to turn around a defense that ranked 29th in DVOA and 30th against the pass in 2020.
Grade: B- for Autry, C for Dupree