Commanders trade Chase Young to the 49ers for a third-round pick

John Keim and Nick WagonerOctober 31, 2023, 02:52 PM ET5 minutes of reading

Riddick: 49ers get richer with Chase Young trade

Louis Riddick says the 49ers’ trade for Chase Young was a smart move to bolster their defensive line.

The The Washington Commanders traded defensive end Chase Young to the San Francisco 49ers for a third-round pick, it was announced Tuesday.

The move severed ties with their most effective pass-rusher this season and signaled a change in direction for the franchise, especially after trading fellow defensive end Montez Sweat to the Chicago Bears for a 2024 second-round pick.

Young would have been a free agent after the season. Washington declined to pick up his fifth-year option in the offseason. This would have counted $17.452 million against the 2024 salary cap, but the money would have been guaranteed.

For the 49ers, the trade for Young comes a day after coach Kyle Shanahan said general manager John Lynch is working the phones, but doesn’t know what players will be available to lift a team off a three-game losing streak.

“If we think there’s an opportunity to improve ourselves, we’ll do it,” Shanahan said Monday. “There doesn’t seem to be a lot of options out there, but that certainly doesn’t mean no. I know we’ll look all the way to the deadline and see if anything changes.”

The Niners, who were expected to have 12 picks in next year’s draft before Tuesday’s trade, found a potential solution to their pass rush woes at a reasonable price given Young’s injury past.

Because of lingering concerns about Young’s right knee — he tore his ACL and ruptured his patellar tendon in 2021 — Washington was reluctant to make a commitment. Commanders coach Ron Rivera also said he hopes Young will be motivated to have a strong season.

Young, who missed the opener with a neck injury, has five sacks in seven games and has produced 16 completions, which ranks fourth in the NFL this season. Overall, in 34 games over four seasons with Washington, Young had 14 sacks, 90 tackles and 6 forced fumbles (3 recoveries).

The 49ers are expected to receive a compensatory third-round pick for offensive tackle Mike McClinchey and a third-round pick to compensate for the losses of running backs Run Garthan and Temeco Ryans, with one of those third-rounders being sent to Washington for Young.

October. When the Niners traded for Randy Gregory at 6, they made it clear they wanted to boost their outside pass rusher opposite Nick Bosa.

Through eight games, the non-Bosa 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 percentage with a 17% success rate, and that quartet had 5.5 sacks and 22 pressures.

Young, who tied with Bosa for a team-high 33 sacks in the 2017 and ’18 seasons, comes into this season with a 25% pass rush success rate, up from 19% in his first three years, and has 25 pressures. Eighth in the NFL.

He’s the latest big investment the 49ers have made on the defensive line. That room now includes five former first-round picks in Bosa, Young, Ferrell and defensive tackles 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 offseason.

Despite those investments, San Francisco has struggled to impact quarterbacks this season under new defensive coordinator Steve Wilks. The Niners are 24th in pressure percentage (26%) and 18th in sacks (18).

For Washington, the Young and Sweat trade means the Commanders can turn their attention to quarterback Sam Howell. This allows more investment elsewhere.

The Chiefs have given big contracts to John Allen and Darren Payne over the past two seasons, but the high-priced line hasn’t led to productive play by the defensemen.

Washington’s defense ranks 31st in scoring and 29th in yards per game. If that streak continues, it will be the worst defensive performance in franchise history. Washington hasn’t finished in the bottom four in points and yards since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970.

Washington is sixth in the league with 25 sacks, but the Commanders are 23rd in pass rush success rate. Among defensive players, Young ranks fifth in this area — but none of his linemates are in the top 55.

Washington selected Dua Tagovailoa or Justin Herbert as the No. 2 pick in the 2020 draft after the franchise drafted Dwayne Haskins in the first round the previous year. Although Rivera was hired in January 2020, the staff knew then-owner Dan Snyder was the one who wanted to draft Haskins.

Young finished with 7.5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles and 3 fumble recoveries as a freshman. He fumbled for a touchdown.

However, Young got off to a slow start in 2021, averaging just 1.5 sacks through the first nine games. Then he injured his knee. It was initially believed to be just an ACL injury, but news of his patellar tendon came out later. Young returned to practice in November but did not play until the final three games.

Even after the doctors returned, Rivera said several times that Young needed to regain confidence in his knee.

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