Re-signing Willie Young looks like win-win for Bears


Should the Bears re-sign Willie Young?

As if they hadn’t already emphasized the pass rush in the draft, using their first round pick on Georgia’s Leonard Floyd, the Chicago Bears appear to be doubling down on their commitment to getting to the quarterback this season.

Reports coming out last week indicated that the Bears are looking to extend DE/OLB Willie Young for two more years as he enters the final season of his original three-year deal with the team.

Originally acquired from the Detroit Lions in 2014, Young has quietly been one of the Bears’ most productive pass-rushers when healthy, totaling 16.5 sacks over his first two seasons in Chicago.

This kind of overture to Young probably seemed unlikely just a month ago for a few reasons: Young’s displeasure with the positional switch from a 4-3 end to 3-4 OLB, the signing of LaMarr Houston, who also primarily plays OLB, to a 5-year deal back in 2014, the drafting of Floyd with the 9th overall pick in this year’s draft, and his age–he’ll turn 31 this season and is a season removed from a torn Achilles.

At the same time, however Young may feel about the position change to OLB in Vic Fangio’s 3-4 defense, he has proven to be capable in more aspects than just rushing the passer, even logging an interception on a drop into coverage last season.

This versatility, combined with the known commodity that is his pass-rushing ability, continues to make Young an attractive option for the Bears at the right price.

Beyond just Young’s situation, though, the Bears appear determined to apply more pressure to opposed quarterbacks off the edge and want as many productive pass-rushers on their roster as possible. Keeping Young in addition to Houston–last year’s sack leader for the Bears–rounds out a revamped linebacking corps and creates rotational depth on the outside.

Not only would bringing back Young provide more-than-serviceable insurance for the possibility of Pernell McPhee or Houston going down with injuries, but it also provides more of a buffer for the proper development of Floyd. The presence of multiple veterans ahead of Floyd in the OLB rotation allows the Bears to bring him along as a situational pass-rusher and perhaps ease him into snaps later in the season.

Overall bringing back Young via contract extension would essentially be the same kind of low-risk/high-reward move as it was when the Bears first signed him in 2014: he’s not a star, but he’s consistently productive when healthy, won’t cost much, and has proven that he’s not just a one-trick pony as evidenced by his better-than-expected transition to OLB.

All this said, it’s entirely possible that Young balks at a contract offer in favor of an opportunity to play in a 4-3 system again. Reports continue to indicate that nothing is certain at the moment.

In any case, I personally can’t see Young sticking around past the potential two-year extension the Bears have offered him. Assuming he actually sticks with the Bears until age 33, it seems improbable that he gets another deal here after that, especially if Floyd has begun to round into the form the Bears are hoping for and commands more snaps.

But if all we’re talking about here is two years at somewhere around $3 million annually for someone that has averaged eight sacks over his two seasons in Chicago as a rotational player, wouldn’t you make that deal if you were Ryan Pace? I would.

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