The Chicago Bears will have the luxury of outside linebacker Willie Young's services through the 2018 season, as the team has signed him to a two-year contract extension.
“Willie Young, three-year contract, two-year extension. It’s our first contract extension here, so we're excited about that. Excited for Willie, excited for the Bears," GM Ryan Pace said today. "We did this because of everything he brings to the table. He’s a productive player, he’s a good player and most importantly he’s a good teammate. We got this done late last night. It’s something we’ve been working on for a while. I know Willie’s fired up and we’re fired up to give him a contract extension.”
Young was originally signed by the Bears in 2014 on a three-year, $9 million contract. He led the team in 2014 with a career-high 10.0 sacks before rupturing his Achilles in Week 16.
He was limited through the first half of last season but finished strong, securing 5.5 sacks in the final seven weeks. He finished 2015 with 30 tackles, 6.5 sacks, 2 pass breakups and 1 INT.
"It feels good to reward somebody that’s worked as hard as he’s worked and overcome the injury last year, and the leader that he is out there mentoring our younger players," said Pace. "I feel really good about it. It’s good for our locker room, it’s good for our team.”
Young was a 4-3 defensive end his first four years in the NFL, four with as a sub pass rusher with the Detroit Lions. He struggled early last year to adapt to coordinator Vic Fangio's 3-4 defense but eventually found his place within the system.
"Midway through last year you could feel him getting comfortable," Pace said. "He’s getting so many reps now dropping in coverage and those things are becoming easier for him, so I still think he’s going to get better in this scheme the more reps he gets. He’s a well-rounded player, he works hard, he’s always in shape and again he’s a good teammate.
"He just keeps his head down and just works and I appreciate that about him. Again, I feel like he’s still getting better. Earlier in his career he was more of a sub player and he’s getting more opportunities now and I think he’ll capitalize on those.”
With Young's new deal, the Bears now have their top four outside linebackers singed through at least next season, providing good stability at arguably the deepest position on the team.
"I like having stability at the position, especially just with pass rushers in general," said Pace. "Again, I felt like Willie was deserving of this. When you looked at his current contract and kind of where we were at, he was deserving of this. We knew his contract was going to expire after this season, but it takes both parties to want to do a deal and he was willing to do it and we were too. So we’re both really happy right now."