John Kim and Nick WagonerRead 5 minutes
The Washington Chiefs have traded defensive end Chase Young to the San Francisco 49ers for a third-round pick, it was announced Tuesday.
The move severed ties with one of their most productive Pacific wide receivers this season and marked a shift in the franchise’s direction, especially after the 2024 second-round pick Montez Labe dealt with the Chicago Bears earlier in the day.
Young will be a free agent after the season. Washington refused to pick up his fifth-year option during the fall. It would have been $17.452 million against the 2024 salary cap but guaranteed money.
The young trade for the 49ers comes a day after coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch were making the calls but were unsure what players would be available to bolster a team riding a three-game losing streak.
“If we think there’s an opportunity to improve, we’re going to do it,” Shanahan said Monday. “It doesn’t seem like there are many options out there, but it certainly doesn’t mean it won’t happen. I know that until the last day we will see that and something will change.”
What has changed is that the Niners, who are expected to be up to 12 picks in next year’s draft before Tuesday’s trade, have an affordable solution to their pass rush problems, largely due to Young’s past injury issues.
Because there were lingering concerns with Young’s right knee — he tore his ACL and ruptured his patellar tendon in 2021 — Washington was reluctant to commit. Chiefs coach Ron Rivera said he hopes the game will serve as motivation for the youngster to have a strong season.
Young, who missed the opener with a neck injury, has five sacks in seven games and has also caused 16 incompletions, which ranks fourth in the NFL this season. Overall, in 34 games with Washington over four seasons, Young had 14 sacks, 90 tackles and 6 forced fumbles (3 recoveries).
The 49ers are slated to receive compensatory third-round offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey and another compensatory third-round pick for the loss of Ran Carton and DiMeco Ryans.
When the Niners traded for tight end Randy Gregory on Oct. 6, they made it clear they wanted to bolster their outside pass rush opposite Nick Bosa.
Through eight games, Bosa’s non-defensive ends — Clelin Ferrell, Drake Jackson, Kerry Hyder Jr. and Gregory — have struggled to generate a consistent pass rush. Of that group, Ferrell had the best pass rush win rate at 17% and combined for 5.5 sacks and 22 pressures that quarter.
Young, who combined with Bosa for 33 sacks at Ohio State in the 2017-18 season, came into this season with a 25% pass rush rate, 19% higher than his first three years, and 25 pressures. Eighth in the NFL.
He’s the latest big investment the 49ers have made on the defensive line. That unit now has five former first-round picks in Bosa, Young, Ferrell and defensive ends Arik Armstead and Javon Kinlaw, and two former second-round picks in Jackson and Gregory. Defensive tackle Javon Hargrave was a third-round pick but signed a four-year, $81 million deal with the Niners in the finals.
Despite those investments, San Francisco has struggled to make an impact at quarterback under new defensive coordinator Steve Wilks this season. The Niners rank 24th in pressure percentage (26%) and are tied for 18th in sacks (18).
Trading for the young, sweaty Washington means the Chiefs could turn their attention to quarterback Sam Howell, who has two years left on his rookie contract. This allows them to invest more in other areas.
The Chiefs have given big contracts to defensive tackles John Allen and Darron Payne over the past two seasons, but the high-priced line has not produced effective play on the defensive end.
Washington’s defense ranks 31st in tackles and 29th in yards. If those rates continue, it will be the worst defensive showing in franchise history. Since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, Washington has never finished at the bottom in both points and yards.
Washington ranks sixth in the league with 25 sacks, but the Chiefs are 23rd in pass rush. Among defensive linemen, Young ranks fifth in this area — but none of his linemates are in the top 55.
Washington selected Young as the No. 2 pick in the 2020 draft. Although Rivera was hired in January 2020, the staff knew current owner Dan Snyder wanted to draft Haskins.
Young had 7.5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles and 3 fumble recoveries as a rookie. He replied, sly to touch.
However, Young got off to a slow start in 2021, with just 1.5 sacks in his first nine games. Then he injured his knee. At first it was believed to be just an ACL injury, but news about Patel’s ligament later came out. Young started practicing again in November, but didn’t play until the final three games.
Rivera said Young had to rely on his knee, even after doctors cleared the return several times.