I get it. The last mid-season trade for someone named Chase did not go well. Even leaving aside that small blunder, though, Ryan Poles has given Chicago fans plenty of reasons to be skeptical as he has helmed the team to back-to-back futile seasons. However, there have been a few positive signs, as well, and the team can only start winning if it improves talent on the roster or on the coaching staff, if not both.
One glaring weakness is at Edge Defender. The Chicago Bears have a depressingly weak pass-rush. However, in five starts and six games, Chase Young of the Washington Commanders has 9 QB Hits (with 5 sacks) and 6 tackles for a loss. Every one of those tallies would lead the Bears in 2023. In other words, Chase Young is good at the things that the Bears are presently bad at. The question with Chase Claypool was “can he be good”? The question with Chase Young is rather “can he be good enough to justify the cost”?
Over the offseason, when the idea was floated, I suggested that the upper limit I would be comfortable with for Young would be a pair of third-round picks. That was because from 2011-2018, only 29% of third-round picks went on to become regular starters, contributing at least 40 starts in their first five years. While more than 20% failed to play out their entire 4-year contracts, only 10% ever made the Pro Bowl. The medium third-rounder contributed only 21 starts in five years (at Edge Defender, specifically, this rate of return actually drops to 12 starts). These players do typically appear in an average of 50 games, though, so a third-round pick is frequently a chance to get a marginal contributor who has the potential to turn into a starter. These are speculative rolls of the dice. Chase Young was a speculative investment, then, with his insecure position coming back from injury.
Of course, also unknown during the offseason was how badly the Bears would continue to struggle. That could be used as an argument to move more readily (they need to infuse reliable talent, a la DJ Moore) or as a reason to hesitate (why bother now when they could use those traded picks in the draft and save cap space?).
Consider this, then. From 2011-2018, only 51% of second-round picks went on to play in at least 40 games across their first five years, and under 1 in 5 of them would appear in a Pro Bowl in that time. Basically, a second-round pick is a coin toss. At Edge, specifically, it’s not even a coin toss. Fewer than half of all Edge Defenders drafted in the second round contributed more than 19 starts in his first five years. In fact, only one in three second-round Edge defenders started at least 40 games in that time. It actually took investing ten second-round picks to find a single Edge who would be selected to the Pro Bowl, even as an alternate.
Even if you insist on looking at only the ten Edge Defenders drafted 32-40 (because the Bears will presumably have a very high pick), there’s still only a 50/50 chance that the player will start in half of all games across five years and there’s only a single Pro Bowler to be found (DeMarcus Lawrence). Thus, while a second-round pick does offer the potential for a home-run on a price-managed contract, the reality is that second-round picks still offer “impact-level” players only very seldomly, especially at premium positions.
The issue, then, is the classic one of what happens when a team gives up a draft pick in exchange for a player who is going to command a pricey extension. It cannot be a regular event, of course, because the control of costs that is built into the rookie salary schedule is a powerful tool for team building. However, the Bears have plenty of cap space.
If Young can be had for a pair of third-round picks (or a similar package), then he turns a speculative roll of the dice into a known improvement at one of the weakest areas of the roster, at a position that is difficult to improve in draft or free agency. Even if Young costs a high second-round pick, he is likely a more “sure thing” than the pick itself would be, even if that certainly comes with a higher salary cost.
In my dream scenario, Justin Fields’ former teammate could be had for the Eagles 4th-rounder in 2024 and a conditional pick that could escalate all the way to one of the two second-rounders Chicago owns in 2025. That would be a scenario where everyone wins–including, hopefully, the Beloved. On the field for a change…