Nick WagonerESPN staff writerRead 5 minutes
SANTA CLARA, Calif. – San Francisco 49ers defensive end Chase Young hasn’t been with the team for a full week yet, but he’s already embracing his new home.
Speaking to Bay Area media for the first time since the Niners traded a compensatory third-round pick to the Washington Chiefs on Tuesday, Young said he was 5-3 and excited to rejoin college teammate Nick Bosa on the team. It is placed in first place in the NFC West division.
“I wasn’t crazy,” Young said of his initial reaction to the trade. “Nick’s here, he’s always been a big brother to me … I realized last week here, just the culture, the vibe is so different. I definitely know I’m with the winners in the build-up.”
As the No. 2 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, Young has endured three injury-plagued seasons with the Chiefs. And even though he’s back to rookie-best form this season, there are concerns about Young’s right knee — he tore his ACL and was sidelined in 2016. He tore the patellar tendon in that knee in 2021 – leaving Washington to skip his fifth year. Option for 2024.
That means Young can become a free agent during the playoffs (barring the tag) and makes him a trade hub if the Chiefs don’t get off to a good start. At the time of the deal, the Chiefs were 3-5 and had already traded fellow passer Montez Lab to the Chicago Bears.
With all that in mind, Young said he wasn’t surprised to hear he was dealt 90 minutes before last week’s trade deadline, but said he learned of the deal on social media.
Still, Young held no grudges against his former team for being traded.
“I know who I am,” Young said. “I’m a competitor. So I’m going to compete. I don’t know what they’re doing over there.” [in Washington]. It’s over my head. I will be Chaz Young and compete as hard as I can.
In San Francisco, the Niners are looking for a boost to a defense that has slumped during a three-game losing streak following a 5-0 start. The hope is that Young can join former Ohio State teammate and close friend Bosa and complete the league’s most dangerous defensive line alongside defensive tackles Arik Armstead and Javon Hargrave.
At Ohio State, Young and Bosa combined for 33 sacks in the 2017-18 season, and Young carries a 25% pass rush win rate this season, at least an 8% improvement over the Niners’ other tight ends. Unlike Bosa this season.
Despite San Francisco’s heavy investment on that defensive line, the Niners’ sack rate of 5.3% and pressure rate of 26.3% ranked 27th and 24th in the NFL, respectively. Some of them may be directed at teams that think to get the ball out quickly or move the pocket, but the team is below expectations heading into the season.
General manager John Lynch hopes Young can help turn the lackluster closer into more sacks and production.
“In my mind, we’re pretty good there, and now we’re hoping it’s better if this thing comes up against Chase,” Lynch said. “We’re going to put a lot of resources in there. Those guys have to be not only good, but very good and dominant and they’re going to disrupt offense and all that stuff. And I feel like he’s on his way and we’ve got to do that. And we’ve got to do it. It’s going to take everybody.”
Five minutes after the trade officially began, Young said, he heard from Bosa, who was excited to be back working with Young, especially because of how unlikely he once seemed.
“Even in college, we never thought we’d play against each other again,” Young said. “I think it’s just like in college, it’s kind of a race to quarterback. It’s going to be real fun, that’s all I know.”
Upon arriving in the Bay Area, Young went to the Niners facility and quickly began working with defensive line coaches Chris Kocurek and Darryl Tapp. The youngster said he and Tapp spent more time on the field keeping track of everything and emphasizing the importance of the details needed to play his role in defense.
In Monday’s practice, Young — in his new No. 92 jersey — spent a lot of time picking Bosa’s head and getting a quick reaction to what’s expected of him.
Because Young can become a free agent this offseason and the Niners are unlikely to pay another defensive lineman top market money, the natural assumption is that Young will only be with the team for the rest of the season.
But there’s a lot of football between now and then, and much of Young’s market will depend on how he performs in the team’s final nine games and any potential playoff run. That is why the young man does not think about his future. For now, the focus is on staying healthy and productive and letting the rest work itself out.
“I don’t even worry about that now,” Young said. “I’m just concerned about learning this playbook and being the best player I can be.”