Acting on the time-honored bromide of, “You can never be too rich, too thin or have too many pass rushers,” the Bears reportedly have chatted with defensive end/linebacker Willie Young about extending his contract beyond its final (2016) season.
The organization used the No. 9-overall pick of the 2016 NFL Draft on EDGE rusher Leonard Floyd, a lighter and younger version of Young. But irrespective of the draft choice and presumably of offseason knee surgery for linebacker Pernell McPhee, the interest is there in keeping Young, even at age 30, as initially reported by Bleacher Report.
Which should come as little surprise, for a variety of reasons. Those begin with the opinion of the head coach: “I think Willie is a great teammate,” John Fox said back in this year’s owners meetings. “I’ve enjoyed coaching him my one year because he’s not afraid to work and he does it enthusiastically. So I like Willie, and I’ve seen him improve.”
Which is a character statement about Young, whose disdain for being called “linebacker” may have been humorously voiced, but reflected his desired role and where he thought he fit best. Despite coming back from a season-ending (2015) Achilles tear, Young collected 6.5 sacks as an outside linebacker/end in a defense that opponents regularly schemed out of its preferred 3-4 structure.
Whatever he was called, Young was one of the two most impactful players on the Bears defense.
Using one measure, according to ProFootballFocus.com, Young graded out second only to McPhee among Bears defensive players, and was credited with 33 quarterback hurries, second only to McPhee’s 48, in addition to his 6.5 sacks and seven quarterback hits.
Based on Bears team statistics, including Young’s one interception and three passes defended, Young averaged one “impact play” (sack, tackle, PBU, TFL, etc.) every 6.68 snaps played. That placed him alongside McPhee, the leader of the defense, who delivered an “impact play” every 5.99 snaps played.
The “impact play” number reflects only plays resulting in a measured statistic, and is just for a loose comparison. For reference sake: safety Adrian Amos, the Bears’ leading tackler and a very bright defensive highlight for the year, averaged one impact play every 8.70 snaps played. Linebackers Christian Jones and Shea McClellin had impressive tackle totals but are out of the defensive picture because of non-statistical shortcomings.
The overall point: Young, with 10 sacks in 2015 and 6.5 last season, is the Bears’ top pass rusher since coming over from Detroit on a three-year contract in 2014.
Whether contract talks prove fruitful, the Bears clearly know what they have.