Chase Young could become a free agent following next season after the Washington Commanders opted not to pick up the edge rusher’s fifth-year option.
The team decided not to exercise the $17.5 million option for 2024, a person with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press. The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity Wednesday because the team had not announced the decision.
Word of the decision came on the eve of the NFL draft, three years after Washington took Young with the second pick behind Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow. The Bengals announced Tuesday they were picking up Burrow’s $29.5 million fifth-year option while working to sign their franchise quarterback to a long-term contract.
It’s entirely possible the Commanders eventually do the same with Young, but they’re challenging the 24-year-old to produce in a contract year after already committing significant money elsewhere on the defensive line.
Young, who grew up in Maryland not far from the team’s home stadium, became the face of the franchise as soon as he was drafted. He had 7 1/2 sacks in his first NFL season and was named AP Defensive Rookie of the Year.
After skipping voluntary offseason workouts in 2021, Young started slow in his second pro season and had just two sacks before tearing the ACL in his right knee that November. Following surgery that involved grafting part of his left patellar tendon to repair the damage, he missed the majority of the 2022 season before returning on Dec. 24.
The Ohio State product has played in just three games since the injury. Asked last week about a decision on Young, coach Ron Rivera said the Commanders would wait until the May 2 deadline to declare their intentions.
Making the call before the draft opens up some potential options — including a potential trade of Young if anything materializes — for Washington, which has the 16th pick on Thursday and seven others. It also could make defensive end a position of need, given that Young and fellow rusher Montez Sweat could be gone before the 2024 season and Shaka Toney was suspended for at least a year for betting on NFL games.
Investing more in Young was not an easy decision, given the Commanders already had Jonathan Allen under contract and recently signed fellow defensive tackle Daron Payne to a four-year deal worth $90 million after putting the franchise tag on him. They opted a year ago to pick up Sweat’s $11.5 million fifth-year option for this season, but the 2019 first-round pick with 29 sacks in 59 games also could depart in free agency afterward.