Willie Young

Bears To Cut LB Willie Young

Mike Glennon isn’t the only Bears player getting his pink slip today. Bears GM Ryan Pace also announced that linebacker Willie Young will be released. Willie Young (vertical)

Young, 33 in September, was a key cog in Chicago’s defense since joining the team in 2014. He has made 50 appearances for the Bears and he was an absolute sack machine for the most part with 26 over that span.

Unfortunately, Young suffered a torn triceps muscle in October which landed him on IR. Between the injury and the $4.5MM that could be saved by cutting him, it wasn’t a tough decision for Pace. The Bears will give themselves additional flexibility heading into free agency with just $900K in dead money left on the cap.

If Young chooses to continue playing, he should find healthy interest from teams in need of a 3-4 edge rusher. This past season was a trying one, but he has bounced back from injury before. Young tore one of his Achilles’ tendons late in the 2014 season and bounced back to play a complete and successful campaign in 2015. In that 2015 season, Young had 6.5 sacks and 30 tackles.

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Bears Place Willie Young On IR

The Bears have officially placed outside linebacker Willie Young on injured reserve. This was the expected move after Young suffered a torn triceps muscle. Willie Young (vertical)

Young, 32, has been a key cog of the Bears’ defense since joining the team in 2014. He has made 50 appearances for Chicago and has been an absolute sack machine with 26 in total.

Without him, the Bears will be extra reliant on Pernell McPheeLeonard Floyd, and Sam Acho for edge pressure. They may also look to the free agent market for reinforcements. Although he is strictly a situational pass rusher at this point, someone like Dwight Freeney could be of interest to Chicago.

Young inked a lucrative extension with the Bears last year and is under contract with the team through the 2018 season. His recovery will not be fun, but he has been here before. Young tore one of his Achilles’ tendons late in the 2014 season and bounced back to play a complete and successful campaign in 2015. In that 2015 season, Young had 6.5 sacks and 30 tackles.



Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bears’ Willie Young Expected To Miss Rest Of Season

Already down several key players due to injury, the Bears look to have lost another. A torn triceps injury will shelve outside linebacker Willie Young for the season’s remainder, Dan Wiederer of the Chicago Tribune reports. The Bears have yet to announce this, currently slotting Young as doubtful for their Monday-night game against the Vikings.

This setback will require surgery, per Wiederer, and strip the Bears of another starter. They’re already down defenders Jerrell Freeman and Quintin Demps — each residing on IR — while wideouts Kevin White and Cameron Meredith were previously lost to severe injuries.

Young is in his fourth season with the Bears. The team extended him last year, with the $13.55MM pact running through next season. This will reduce the Bears’ outside linebacker rotation to Pernell McPhee — who’s also experienced extensive injury troubles since coming to Chicago — Leonard Floyd and Sam Acho. Wiederer adds the Bears will consider promoting Isaiah Irving off the practice squad; the team signed Howard Jones earlier this week.

The 32-year-old Young has two sacks and seven tackles this season. He now has 26 sacks since coming to the Windy City in 2014. Most of Young’s guaranteed money came during this season, so the Bears may have a decision to make after the season. However, Young has a history of overcoming severe maladies. He bounced back from an Achilles’ tendon tear in December 2014, played in 16 games in 2015 and earned the Chicago extension on which he’s currently playing.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

North Notes: Kalil, Bears, T-Rich, Golson

The Vikings have not received the return they’d hoped after investing their highest first-round pick since 1985 on Matt Kalil, but the team kept him for just more than $11MM on a fifth-year option. The former No. 4 overall selection hopes to reward the team this season and wants to finish his career in the Twin Cities, Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press writes.

Despite an inconsistent career, Kalil is set to out-earn every left tackle in football this season on his $11.09MM fifth-year salary. Tomasson writes that an extension for the 27-year-old blocker could happen, as could a re-signing after the season. Kalil owns one more Pro Bowl nod than Eric Fisher, 2013’s No. 1 overall pick who just inked a four-year, $48MM extension with the Chiefs despite middling production to date, and has started all 65 of the Vikings’ games the past four years. So, that kind of agreement could conceivably be in Kalil’s future if he can elevate his game this season.

The Vikings signed Andre Smith this offseason but saw Phil Loadholt retire. They do not have a long-term tackle option at this point. Last month, PFR’s Dallas Robinson checked in on the Vikings’ offensive front.

Here’s the latest from the North divisions, beginning with one of the Vikings’ top rivals.

  • Willie Young‘s extension with the Bears is worth $13.55MM and runs through the 2018 season, Adam Jahns of the Chicago Sun Times reports (on Twitter). That includes $9MM in guaranteed money, per Jahns. Young will make $5.85MM in 2016, according to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune (on Twitter). That total includes a $2.7MM signing bonus, a $2.3MM roster bonus and an $800K base salary. Young will hold cap figures of $4.1MM in 2017 and $5.4MM in ’18, according to Jahns. The Bears will owe Young a $2.2MM roster bonus on the fifth day of the 2017 league year, Biggs tweets. The steady pass-rusher is due a $1MM roster bonus in ’18, per Biggs (via Twitter), and includes incentives for sacks — thresholds that aren’t likely to be crossed, according to Jahns (Twitter link).
  • Bears cornerback Brandon Boykin is dealing with a pectoral injury that might be “problematic,” and that is expected to prompt Chicago to sign a cornerback soon, Rich Campbell of the Chicago Tribune tweets.
  • The Ravens released Trent Richardson because they needed a wide receiver to practice, Ed Werder of ESPN.com tweets. They believe he’s talented and his return is possibility, Werder adds. Coach John Harbaugh told reporters, including Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun (on Twitter) that both he and GM Ozzie Newsome spoke to Richardson about getting healthy and possibly coming back to the team.
  • Mike Tomlin confirmed Senquez Golson has a Lisfranc injury and that surgery is a likely course of action, Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review tweets. Golson could land on IR-DTR, but the Steelers may reserve that spot for another player since the second-year cornerback will be out up to four months. The 2015 second-rounder has yet to play in a regular-season game after missing his entire rookie slate. As Roster Resource shows, 2016 first- and second-rounders Artie Burns and Sean Davis represent the top depth behind William Gay at a position the Steelers invested in heavily this offseason.
  • Wide receiver Alonzo Russell and interior lineman Alex Redmond represent two of the top choices to continue the Bengals‘ run of UDFAs making the 53-man roster, Cincinnati.com’s Paul Dehner Jr. writes. The 6-foot-4 Russell was a four-year contributor at Toledo, recording 3,076 yards and 24 receiving TDs from 2012-15. A UCLA product, Redmond will be competing with the likes of fifth-round rookie Christian Westerman and 2013 seventh-rounder T.J. Johnson for a spot as a backup interior blocker.

Zach Links contributed to this report

Bears, Willie Young Agree To Extension

Bears linebacker Willie Young will be staying in Chicago for the foreseeable future. According to ESPN’s Adam Caplan (via Twitter), the Bears have signed the 30-year-old to a two-year extension, which would take him through the 2018 season. The terms of the deal have yet to be reported.

Willie Young (vertical)Young originally joined the organization back in 2014, inking a three-year, $9MM deal. Through his first two years in Chicago, the former NC State-standout has certainly lived up to his contract. After having switched from defensive end to linebacker, Young has averaged 35 tackles and more than eight sacks a season since joining the organization. After having ruptured his achilles tendon in 2014, Young bounced back with 6.5 sacks last season. The defender was originally a seventh-round pick by the Lions in 2011, and Young ultimately spent three years in Detroit.

Young placed 24th on ProFootballFocus.com’s (subscription required) ranking of the league’s edge defenders, topping notable names like Jason Pierre-Paul, Greg Hardy, and Sheldon Richardson. Of course, the veteran only played 532 snaps last season, with the majority coming in the passing game.

As RosterResource.com shows, the Bears added a number of linebackers this offseason, including first-round pick Leonard Floyd and veterans Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman. As a result, Young figures to compete with Lamarr Houston for back-up linebacker snaps.

NFC Notes: Bears, Rams, Saints

Bears edge rusher Willie Young acknowledged Wednesday that there have been contract extension talks between him and the team, saying (via Jeff Dickerson of ESPN.com), “Yeah, there has been some stuff mentioned here and there, but that’s something that will be left up to my agent so I don’t get caught in the middle of it.” As of earlier this month, Young was reportedly “50/50” on whether to accept a two-year offer from the Bears. Chicago is trying to keep the soon-to-be 31-year-old after he amassed a combined 16.5 sacks during his first two seasons in the Windy City, and he’s open to spending the rest of his career there. “I would like to finish my career up here in Chicago, but you know that’s not up to me; that’s up to my agent and management,” said Young, who will hit the open market next offseason if a deal isn’t reached by then.

More from the NFC:

  • Free agent safeties Dashon Goldson and Donte Whitner remain “in play” for the Rams, tweets Vincent Bonsignore of the Los Angeles Daily News. If the Rams sign either, it won’t occur until after OTAs because the team wants to evaluate its in-house options, Bonsignore adds (Twitter link). Los Angeles hosted Whitner, a three-time Pro Bowler, in early April. Goldson, who has two Pro Bowl selections under his belt, met with the club earlier this month. PFR’s Dallas Robinson ranks Whitner as the best defensive free agent on the market.
  • Fellow free agent safety Roman Harper could rejoin the Saints, per FOX Sports’ Alex Marvez (via Twitter). Harper, whom the Saints took in the second round of the 2006 draft, spent his first eight seasons in New Orleans before signing with the division-rival Panthers in 2014. The 33-year-old proved to have a fair amount left in the tank last season for the NFC champions, starting all 19 of their games (playoffs included) while grading 53rd out of 89 qualifying safeties at Pro Football Focus.
  • Ex-Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, who coached Harper in 2013, spoke negatively last week of his time on New Orleans’ staff. One of Ryan’s former pupils, now-Bears defensive lineman Akiem Hicks, backed Ryan’s claim that the coordinator wasn’t running his own scheme during his final two years with the Saints. “Not to talk about New Orleans for the rest of this interview, but as a player in that system, you can see when power is taken away from a guy,” Hicks said Wednesday, per Mike Triplett of ESPN.com. “It was evident in that situation and you saw what the turnout was because of it.” Hicks also praised Ryan as a person, stating, “I didn’t see the interview, but I do know this, I’ll forever and always have a lot of love for Rob Ryan, just because there’s nobody that’s going to shoot you straighter.”

Willie Young 50/50 On Bears Offer

MONDAY: 9:30am: Talks are ongoing, but nothing is imminent between the two sides, Cole tweets.

THURSDAY, 2:18pm: The chances of linebacker/defensive end Willie Young taking the Bears’ current two-year offer is “50/50,” a source tells Jason Cole of Bleacher Report (via Twitter). The offer is just good enough that Young has to consider, he adds. Willie Young (vertical)

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It’s not clear if Chicago has presented Young with its final offer, though the tone of Cole’s tweet seems to suggest that. Young, 30, would be under contract through his age-33 season with a two-year extension.

Young inked a three-year, $9MM deal with Chicago in 2014 and, so far, he has been a solid value. Last year, Pro Football Focus (subscription required) rated Young as the 24th best edge defender in the NFL out of 110 qualified players. The advanced metrics gave him roughly equally good marks for his pass rush (359 pass snaps) and run defense (173 snaps). Young has started in eight games during each of the past two seasons and has enhanced his pass-rushing profile considerably during that span. After six sacks in four years with the Lions, Young has registered 16.5 in 30 games with the Bears.

The veteran was reportedly on the trade block after being used sparingly during the first half of the 2015 season. However, Young turned it on in the second half, making 5.5 of his 6.5 sacks from Weeks 9-13. Now, even though Chicago has a strong cast of outside linebackers, the team badly wants to keep him in the fold.

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Bears, Willie Young Discussing Extension

Entering the final season of a three-year contract, Willie Young may not be headed toward the free agent market after this season. Willie Young (vertical)

The Bears and Young are in talks on a two-year extension that would keep the edge defender in Chicago until his age-33 season, Jason Cole of Bleacher report tweets. Cole reports the deal could be finalized soon.

Despite the Bears having signed Pernell McPhee in 2015 and added Leonard Floyd in the first round last month, the team looks to prefer to keep Young in the fold. He’s been a quality performer who’s done well to deliver on the three-year, $9MM deal he signed in 2014.

The 30-year-old Young has started in eight games during each of the past two seasons and has enhanced his pass-rushing profile considerably during that span. After six sacks in four years with the Lions, Young has registered 16.5 in 30 games with the Bears.

Transitioning from 4-3 end to 3-4 outside linebacker last season, Young was thought to be on the trade block to begin 2015 after being used sparingly during the first half of the campaign. But Young turned it on for the Bears in the second half, making 5.5 of his 6.5 sacks from Weeks 9-13 and looks to have changed the franchise’s tune despite its now-well-equipped cast of outside ‘backers. A former seventh-round pick of the Lions’ in 2010, Young rated as one of Pro Football Focus’ more balanced edge players last season, ranking 24th overall and grading well against the pass and the run.

Although Floyd has yet to sign his rookie deal, he, McPhee and Lamarr Houston are expected to take up $17.22MM of Chicago’s cap this season. Young is only set to occupy $3.17MM of the Bears’ cap this season. That rate is plenty reasonable for the production Young’s provided, and more Chicago-commissioned checks could be coming his way.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC Notes: Bears, Galette, Cards, Hester

The Bears’ excellent cap situation (nearly $24MM in space) and the importance of having quality edge rushers are two reasons the team won’t release either Lamarr Houston or Willie Young, as Adam Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times writes.

On Houston, who had a career-high eight sacks in 2015, general manager Ryan Pace said, ‘‘He came on strong. Luckily, we’re in a healthy cap situation, so we can [keep him on the roster].”

Houston’s $6.99MM cap hold is the Bears’ fourth-highest total for 2016, while the $3.17MM hit for Young (6.5 sacks last season) is more modest. One anonymous AFC executive opined last month that Houston was a candidate for the chopping block, but it now appears he’s safe.

Regarding Houston and Young, who combined for 12.5 sacks over the final nine games last season, head coach John Fox stated, “Obviously, I like those guys.”

The fact that Houston and Young seem to have the approval of Bears brass doesn’t mean the club will eschew pursuing more pass rushers via the draft, per Jahns. On the contrary, they’d like to add speed off the edge. Speed isn’t the strongest suit of Houston, Young or Pernell McPhee, Jahns notes.

In other NFC news…

  • Washington re-signed Junior Galette to a one-year deal because of the uncertainty surrounding Galette’s ability to re-emerge from the torn Achilles’ tendon that shelved him for the 2015 season, Tarik El-Bashir of CSNMidAtlantic.com. “Well, we’ve got to see, coming off an injury at any part of your body,” GM Scot McCloughan said. “But the Achilles for a guy’s explosion? It’s going to be interesting. That’s why the one-year deal from our standpoint made sense because, you know, does he still have the same twitch? Does he still have the same ability to get up field? I believe he does.” Galette’s contract doesn’t contain any guaranteed money. The 28-year-old pass-rusher notched 10 sacks for the Saints when last healthy in 2014, with current Washington edge-rushing counterpart Ryan Kerrigan registering a career-high 13.5 the same season.
  • Before agreeing to a deal with Tennessee on Friday, safety Rashad Johnson spent the first seven years of his NFL career in Arizona. If the 30-year-old had it his way, he’d still be a member of the Cardinals. Johnson told Zig Fracassi of Sirius-XM NFL Radio that he wanted to re-sign with the Cards, but they didn’t make him an offer (Twitter link).
  • The NFL’s decision to move touchbacks from the 20-yard line to the 25 next season should have an adverse effect on return men. Devin Hester, one of the all-time great returners, could be an exception. The Falcons might continue to turn him loose, according to head coach Dan Quinn. “There are special players like Dev and other returners around the league, they’ll still get green-lighted. Here’s a guy who is on the club for this unique reason,” Quinn told D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The 33-year-old Hester missed all but five games last season because of a toe injury, but he has since had surgery on it and is currently rehabbing.

Sam Robinson contributed to this post.

North Notes: Gordon, Mallett, Megatron

Browns wideout Josh Gordon will be eligible to apply for reinstatement from his suspension in February, and if Gordon gets the go-ahead from the NFL to return to action, head coach Mike Pettine would welcome him back with open arms, tweets Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. “Absolutely we would,” Pettine said. “He’s a Cleveland Brown.”

Of course, given the way the Browns have played this season, it’s fair to be skeptical that Pettine will even be around to make that decision in February — it’s possible Cleveland will have hired a new head coach by then.

As we wait to see what the future holds for Pettine and Gordon, let’s check in on a few more items from around the NFL’s North divisions….

  • The two-year deal Ryan Mallett signed with the Ravens is basically a $1.6MM pact, says Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun (Twitter links). Of course, most of that money will be due next season, and the quarterback’s 2016 salary (about $1.5MM) is non-guaranteed. If Mallett does make the team, he can earn an extra $500K for playing just 1% of Baltimore’s regular snaps, and $1MM if he plays 10% of the snaps, maxing out the year at $2.5MM, tweets Field Yates of ESPN.com.
  • “Lovely” isn’t a word that makes its way into NFL interviews too often, but that was the adjective Calvin Johnson used today to describe the possibility of finishing his career with the Lions, as Michael Rothstein of ESPN.com details.
  • Willie Young‘s transition from defensive end to outside linebacker hasn’t always been smooth, but it has gone better than expected, and it looks like Young could have a future with the Bears, writes Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune.