ESPN is already set for free agency, which will officially open on March 13 even though the 49ers still have one game left to play in this postseason.
In a collaborative document published on Tuesday, several of ESPN’s NFL reporters named one player each team should re-sign this offseason.
While the NFC’s Super Bowl LVIII representative doesn’t have many notable imminent free agents, Nick Wagoner suggested San Francisco should bring back defensive end Chase Young for 2024.
Young, the second overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, was signed by the 49ers for a compensatory third-round pick before October’s trade deadline after spending three-and-a-half injury-plagued seasons with Washington.
San Francisco can net a 2025 compensatory draft pick if Young signs elsewhere in free agency, but Wagoner isn’t sure another team will pay the edge-rusher a lucrative deal.
“But it seems unlikely that Young — who had 2.5 sacks, 16 pressures and a 13.1% pass rush win rate in the regular season after the trade — will get a deal large enough to bring a significant comp pick back to San Francisco,” Wagoner wrote.
Wagoner believes San Francisco could benefit from signing Young to a short-term contract with incentives. However, Wagoner adds that if the Ohio State product leaves in free agency, the 49ers will likely choose his replacement early in April’s draft.
“Which means he could be in for a short-term, incentive-heavy deal that the Niners could potentially afford,” Wagoner continued.
“If he does leave, edge rusher once again becomes an offseason need, likely to be addressed early in the draft.”
According to Pro Football Focus’ free-agent rankings, Young is the 28th-best player hitting the market this offseason and is projected to sign a one-year, $15M fully guaranteed contract.
Any one-year deal is essentially risk-free, but there are many reasons to avoid re-signing Young, who was once considered a generational prospect.
Injuries are the obvious concern for Young — he’s played just 43 career games in the regular season due to consistent injuries, including a ruptured patellar tendon and a torn ACL in his right knee.
As a result, he’s never been the same dominant force he was during his Pro Bowl rookie season (44 tackles, 10 for loss, 7.5 sacks and 12 QB hits), racking up 56 tackles and nine sacks since.
Additionally, effort has also proven to be an issue for Young, as the 24-year-old went viral for not hustling on a Jahmyr Gibbs touchdown run in the first half of Sunday’s NFC Championship Game.
Nonetheless, Young will be one of the most intriguing free agents to follow this offseason. It’ll be fascinating to see whether a standout performance in Super Bowl LVIII will significantly impact his upcoming negotiations.