The Bears Will Miss Willie Young

Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune on the Bears sudden need for more pass rush:

In terminating the contracts of Pernell McPhee and Willie Young last week, the Bears cut from their roster a pair of veteran edge rushers who last season accounted for six sacks, 15 quarterback hits and a slew of injury-related concerns about availability and effectiveness.

The latter explained the moves and why there was minimal hand-wringing in Chicago about them. But jettisoning McPhee and Young, however justifiable, only magnifies the Bears’ need for push rushers.

I’m not surprised that the Bears let either of these men go and I think the decision on McPhee was fully justified. He’s simply been unable to stay healthy. But I’m not so sure about the decision on Young.

I understand why the Bears let Young go, too. He’s on the wrong side of 30, he’s being used as a rotational player and he doesn’t play special teams. But Young is one of those under-rated players that every team needs. He’s an underdog former 7th round pick who brings his lunch pail to work and gets after it. And he’s had a sneaky productive career with 32 career sacks including 10 in 2014. He (reluctantly) accepted a position change and made it work after the arrival of John Fox a year later.

The Bears obviously feel like they can replace his production and get younger at the same time but that’s considerably easier said than done. This year’s draft isn’t thought to be particularly good at the position and teams ordinarily don’t let decent pass rushers hit the free agent market. You wonder if this is a “grass is greener on the other side of the fence” syndrome where GM Ryan Pace is looking at what he doesn’t have more than what he has.

Young got fairly consistent pressure whenever he was in the game and that’s not easy to do. Even at 32 years old he still looked like he had a lot left in 2016 after missing most last season with a torn biceps muscle. Releasing Young isn’t quite the same as watching Alshon Jeffery walk out the door but one can only hope that they do a better job of replacing his production than they did last season when they tried to make up for the loss of Jeffery with a bunch of maybe’s that were destined to pan out only in GM Pace’s dreams.

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