He was a 7th-round selection in 2010, and only started seeing the field in the last couple of years. It wasn't hard to get lost in the shadows of a defensive line boasting players like Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley, Ziggy Ansah, and Cliff Avril (until 2013).
But the Chicago Bears saw enough of Willie Young (6'4, 255) to know that he was one of one of the better pass-rushing defensive ends in the league, and on Thursday, signed him to a 3-year, $9 million contract (3.95 guaranteed).
In 2013, Young had 47 tackles, 3 sacks, and 60 total quarterback pressures. Those 60 pressures ranked him 15th in the league for 4-3 defensive ends according to Pro Football Focus.
Our Detroit Lions blogger, Sean Yuille at Pride of Detroit, told WCG:
"Young flashed a lot of potential in his first three seasons, especially in 2011 with 3.0 sacks in a limited role. He was tabbed as a potential breakout player in 2012 after a strong preseason, but he disappointed in the regular season, perhaps in part because of a nasty finger injury."
The guy actually thought about AMPUTATING HIS OWN FINGER.
Yuille continues: "Last year, as a full-time starter, Young really performed quite well. His run defense improved, and he consistently put a lot of pressure on opposing quarterbacks. He wasn't a great finisher, as evidenced by having only 3.0 sacks in 2013, but that might have had more to do with the Lions' secondary than anything. (Off the field, Young is an avid fisherman and generally a really good guy.)"
His numbers might not be All-Pro at this point in his career, but for a guy just getting his feet up under him, this could be a very good signing for Chicago. We will have the Draft coming up in which someone else could be added, but it is safe to assume that Phil Emery found his two starting defensive ends in the first three days of Free Agency. In case you missed it, Lamarr Houston was signed on Tuesday (LINK).
What about Corey Wootton? He could either be kept around to compete for a starting DE position, kept around to kick back inside as a defensive tackle like he did last year, or could be passed on altogether and allowed to walk.