Chicago Bears Talking Contract Extension With OLB Willie Young

Willie Young has had a change of heart it seems. As the then underutilized Chicago Bears’ outside linebacker, Willie wanted a trade as recently as the fourth week of the season. Now comes the news that extension talks have engaged between the Bears and Young. What a difference having a cooler head makes.

After the Chicago Bears traded Jared Allen to the Carolina Panthers, it was reported by Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio that Willie Young asked the team to send him packing as well. The Bears failed to consummate a deal. Instead, they opted to give Young more reps at outside linebacker. The Bears were rewarded for that with the converted 4-3 defensive end notching 6.5 sacks. All but one of those sacks came after Week 10.

Coming off a torn ACL, Willie Young was slow to develop in the 3-4 defensive scheme adopted by the Bears. Young had never played in the 3-4 front before. Once he began to round into form, he was excellent.

Chicago Bears' Willie Young Chicago Bears’ OLB Willie Young notches a sack against San Francisco 49ers’ QB Blaine Gabbert. [Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images]When he was not sacking the quarterback, the Bears defender was getting pressure. A player spending time in the opposing team’s backfield is a premium for the Chicago Bears. The Bears need as many defenders to get to the quarterback as possible. Locking up Willie Young to an extension makes sense for them.

An extension seems to be in the works according to Pro Football Weekly via the Bleacher Report’s Jason Cole. The Bears and Willie Young are discussing a two-year addition to the existing three-year contract that Young signed a couple of seasons ago.

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Willie Young is entering the last year on his deal with the Bears. As a potential free agent, he could have a prime season. Embracing playing at outside linebacker for the Bears is something that he must do. Much of the reason for Willie Young’s trade request has to do with his reluctance to play standing up, versus his having his hand on the turf.

According to a December report in ChicagoFootball.com, Young refused to call himself an outside linebacker. He chose to consider himself an athlete instead.

“I think me being a professional, coming out of college I was always a defensive end. Once I got to the NFL I ended up having to be versatile. I think me just being the athlete that I am, blessed with the talents that I’ve been given, I’m just able to adapt to whatever the situation might be.”

Money matters a great deal in Willie Young’s train of thought. Defensive ends get paid handsomely. That is what motivates Young to resist the OLB label that the Chicago Bears have put on him. What he is perhaps beginning to understand is that the outside linebacker position, at least those who get to the quarterback, get paid as well. Think of Von Miller, one of the best defensive players in the NFL. It would make sense for Young, and the Bears to a lessor extent, to engage in contract extension talks.

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For Willie Young, he gets to showcase some versatility as an outside linebacker with extensive playing time as a defensive end. The Bears are not going to line-up exclusively as a 3-4 defense. Since most teams throw out three receivers at a time, the Bears will have to play some nickel and dime defense. That gives Young the opportunity to stand up and put his hand on the ground. He came on strong at the end of the season as he got healthier. A season with him getting 10 or more sacks for the Chicago Bears is a realistic possibility. If that does not happen, at least he has a few extra dollars from signing a contract extension.

It also works for the Chicago Bears.

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The Bears drafted Georgia outside linebacker Leonard Floyd to be a speed rusher on the edge. Floyd is too light in the tail to contribute on every down, which will make him a situational player for now. Extending Willie Young gives the Bears some insurance until Floyd is ready to play full-time.

Even if he is ready this season, the Bears will want a rotation of players coming in and out each game. This creates as many looks and fronts as possible. Competition is also generated if the rotation works out. Ideally, the Bears would want multiple players to have eight or more sacks next season. If that happens, the Chicago Bears will be ecstatic. Hopefully, the Bears can get something done with Willie Young soon.

[Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images]