Young, 24, is on the final year of his rookie contract, and was the second defensive end moved on Tuesday by the Commanders, who also traded Montez Sweat to the Chicago Bears in exchange for a 2024 second-round pick.
The 49ers were reportedly interested in both players, but ultimately landed Young, albeit for a much cheaper price.
What does this move mean for the 49ers, both in the present and in the future?
Contract and Compensation
Similar to the Randy Gregory trade, the 49ers will not be paying the majority of Young’s contract, instead only being on the hook for approximately $561,000 through the rest of the year, according to The Athletic’s David Lombardi.
Chase Young will cost the 49ers only about $561,000 this season
It’s another cheap move for the 49ers, who retain their much-desired cap flexibility for the offseason, while adding a valuable piece to the fold for the stretch run in 2023.
Now, to the compensation.
Moving a third-round compensatory pick for Young seems fairly cheap, especially when considering the Commanders could’ve gotten similar value for the defensive end if they let him walk in free agency.
Granted, they’ll get a 2024 third-round compensatory pick, rather than a 2025 pick, but it’s still a bit of a questionable move on their end, which suggests that Young’s value across the league wasn’t that high.
Speaking about compensatory picks, this seems like a no-brainer for the 49ers when considering that they’re on the trajectory to receive a 2025 third-round pick back for Young, should they let him walk in free agency.
Young will likely command a fairly decent edge rusher salary this offseason on the open market after a bounce-back 2023 season, which the 49ers may not be inclined to pay, given their other contractual obligations, as well as the amount of money already distributed along the defensive line.
So, when thinking about it, the 49ers could return the compensatory pick they lose in 2024 just a year later, while also recouping a half season of production from Young.
Looking at the team’s 2024 picks, the 49ers were scheduled to have three third-rounders: their own, a compensatory pick from Mike McGlinchey, and a compensatory pick for the hiring of general manager Ran Carthon.
They’ll lose the latter of the three picks in this trade, but still retain two third rounders for the 2024 NFL Draft, placing them in a good spot with draft compensation regardless.
Don’t look now, but Young is quietly compiling a strong 2023 season in his return from injury.
Through the first half of the year, Young has five sacks, while accumulating 38 pressures, good for eighth in the NFL, and the highest pass-rush win rate of his career.
Additionally, with his stout frame, Young could provide the 49ers with some inside-outside flexibility on pass-rushing downs, something the team has lacked since losing Charles Omenihu in free agency.
Young isn’t the biggest edge rusher at 265 pounds, but possesses a good bull rush among other pass-rushing moves that the 49ers will surely look to tap into.
The question now becomes: where do players see playing time?
The 49ers already had a talented group of defensive linemen with Randy Gregory entering the fold, and now have an even stronger group with the addition of Chase Young.
My guess? I’d expect a decrease in reps for second-year player Drake Jackson, as well as starter Clelin Ferrell, with the hope that Young could develop into a starter and see action on base downs, as well as in passing situations.
But, as they say, the rich get richer, and San Francisco definitely did that with the addition of Chase Young.
When the Young trade was announced, I immediately thought of Drake Jackson, who has struggled to break out of his shell as a second-year pass-rusher.
The Young trade is an indictment on Jackson’s current readiness, as it seems, the 49ers don’t believe he’s capable to take on a meaningful role just yet.
Now, this trade doesn’t close the door on Jackson’s future with the 49ers, but rather pumps the brakes on his current progress, as he seems primed for a decrease in snaps.
Unfortunately, it’s not looking great early for the 2022 second-round pick and places an even bigger emphasis on general manager John Lynch and Co. to hit on their draft picks, as production from younger players becomes even more important when the salary cap becomes a crunch.
Elsewhere, the future compensatory pick that Young could generate if he walks in free agency is huge for the 49ers, as they’re barely losing draft capital in the move, and can afford to do so, given their current abundance of picks in the 2024 NFL Draft.
Overall, this is a great move by San Francisco that presents low risk and a good reward if Young continues to blossom in 2023.