Willie Young, arguably the best defensive player on the Chicago Bears right now, is currently in the middle of contract negotiations in hopes for an extension. If Young does not sign an extension by the end of this upcoming season, he will become a free agent at seasons end. You can not let this happen if you are Ryan Pace and the Bears, and hopefully they are doing everything in their power to keep the former NC State grad, as rumors are circulating that they are currently working on keeping him in the Windy City.
But once he’s back, then what? Do you keep Willie at the five-technique and work Leonard Floyd into the defense more? Or do you put the seven year vet behind the up-and-coming rookie?
Actually, you should do none of those. Instead, Vic Fangio should consider shifting Young back to defensive end. You don’t need Willie at OLB with guys like Houston, McPhee and Floyd on the outside, so why not bring him in to improve where you are lacking?
In terms of snap count, you are adding a fresh face in Leonard Floyd to a defense where he is going to need his fair share of reps in order to become well-acclimated with the squad. This will surely deflate the number of reps that the other outside linebackers like Lamarr Houston, Sam Acho, and Willie Young saw the previous season. Young should not be subject to “rotational” snaps on this defense. He has proven himself to be a stud for this franchise. The best way to counteract this would be to give Young starter reps at DE in order to help boost an already depleted line.
At DE, Young will provide an explosiveness out of the three-technique that will give the defense another big body to clog the B gap in the line, while creating havoc in the backfield. He will become an instant upgrade from the likes of Will Sutton and Ego Ferguson, who amassed only 26 tackles and zero sacks combined last season.
If the Bears were to move Young to the line, then they will be down an outside linebacker. Which begs the question, who can they get to replace him?
In walks Mike Neal, formerly of the Green Bay Packers. Neal, seven year veteran out of Purdue, finished the 2015-2016 season with 36 tackles and four sacks as an OLB in Green Bay’s 3-4 D. He would be an absolute steal for the Bears at this point in the offseason, and would provide that much-needed extra body the Bears can shuffle into the mix with the rest of the outside pass rushers.
A simple shift in position such as this can open up many doors for a Bears defense that has fallen far from being “Monsters.” This team needs a change, and this change will do wonders for them.