Before taking the low-hanging fruit regarding the title of this article and comparing Mack and Young’s injury histories, consider the fact that I’m not referring to the Khalil Mack that was plagued by nagging injuries during his four years in the Windy City. I’m talking about the Khalil Mack that spearheaded the Bears’ incredible defensive turnaround during the 2018 season. His mere presence on that defense helped them bolster their pass rush (he led the team with 12.5 sacks) and finish with a league-leading 283 points allowed.
Much like Mack’s first year in Chicago, Chase Young’s NFL career couldn’t have gotten off to a much better start. He finished his rookie year with 7.5 sacks, four forced fumbles, and three fumble recoveries. The then-21-year-old was named the Defensive Rookie of the Year for his efforts and was one of only two first-year players to make the Pro Bowl.
Unfortunately (or, potentially, very fortunately for the Bears), Young failed to build on his impressive debut performance. He finished his sophomore campaign with only one-and-a-half sacks before suffering a torn ACL in week ten. The injury also sidelined him for all but three games in 2022. and he played only 115 snaps (and didn’t record a sack) all season.
Commanders coach Ron Rivera made waves in February when he told reporters that the front office had not decided whether the team would pick up Young’s fifth-year option. Trade speculation began to heat up from there, as that was the first indication that he might not be in their future plans.
The team signed Jonathan Allen to a four-year deal worth $72 million during the 2021 offseason and Daron Payne to a four-year, $90 million contract last month. With so much money already being allocated to the defensive line, the odds of them signing a third lineman to a long-term deal seems unlikely. With that said, he is still under contract for 2023, and another team would have to make a deal for him to land his services.
What would it take to land Young? Could the Commanders be interested in adding Young to a potential first-round swap if their desired passer falls into Chicago’s lap at the ninth pick? With the division rival Eagles picking tenth and the QB-needy Titans picking 11th, Washington would have to consider moving on from the pass-rusher if they have confidence in their guy becoming the quarterback of the future.
We all saw how much the Bears had to give up moving up nine spots (four picks, including a first-round selection the following year) to select Justin Fields in the 2021 Draft, and they would be looking for similar compensation to move down seven spots with Washington’s offer. Ryan Poles’ choice to prioritize D.J. Moore (and Brian Burns and Derrick Brown) in trade conversations with Carolina indicates that he prefers proven commodities when available, and Young certainly fits that billing, as he played at an elite level during his rookie season.
Young will be one of the biggest one-year wonders (and what-ifs) of all time if he doesn’t regain his pre-injury form. He is only 23 years old and should still have plenty of gas left in the tank. His lack of production has nothing to do with his incredible talent, and the only thing in the way of him developing into a dominant edge rusher is his health.
The Bears’ front office has done a solid job filling their needs with high-impact players this offseason, but their defensive line remains a massive weak spot. While they should be able to address the position in an edge-heavy draft, they will not be able to land anyone with as much potential as Young.
If the Commanders do decide to move on from the former second-overall pick, the Bears have to be the team with the highest bid for his services. Not only does he have a chance to get his career back on track in the Windy City, but he also still possesses the potential to be one of the league’s best edge-rushers.