Why the Saints felt comfortable with Chase Young despite his lengthy injury history

ORLANDO, Florida — When coach Dennis Allen first learned the New Orleans Saints were interested in signing Chase Young, he didn’t believe the defensive end would be available.

Pass rushers with Young’s pedigree — a former No. 2 overall pick with a Defensive Rookie of the Year trophy — don’t come cheap, despite the 24-year-old’s health issues over his first four seasons. And, if many teams were fighting for his services, could the Saints truly outbid them?

Allen quickly knew that the Saints had more than a puncher’s chance. The interest was genuine and mutual.

“He’s going to be a really good asset for our defense,” stated Allen.

Perhaps the word “asset” isn’t what most people connect with Young at this point in his career. Not with a questionable medical history that reportedly caused teams to pause in free agency and at last year’s trade deadline.

The Saints believe they have no concerns. Allen and general manager Mickey Loomis stated this week that New Orleans did its due diligence in examining Young and was satisfied with both the pass rusher’s knee — which he seriously injured in 2021 — and his neck, the latter of which required surgery and was operated on just days after New Orleans signed Young to a one-year, $13 million contract.

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“I think the wonderful thing for all of us engaged was that everyone we spoke with felt like, ‘Look, it’s not a question of whether he’ll heal and be well. “It was only a matter of when,” Allen remarked Tuesday. “I think we’re comfortable with the timelines that we have.”
“We knew he was going to need some work, and we’re optimistic about it,” Loomis remarked a day before.

Young’s neck injury is thought to have been caused by a stinger he had in an August preseason game against the Washington Commanders. Young missed Washington’s season opener against the Arizona Cardinals due to the injury, which took more than a month to heal. Young returned the next week, but it apparently affected him all year.
When Allen and Loomis watched Young play defense last season, they stated they couldn’t tell the injury had an impact on his performance. Instead, Allen noted how frequently Young won one-on-one matches.

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“That’s something we need to be better at this this year,” added Allen.

Young tied his career best of 7½ sacks last season, although they were unevenly distributed among two teams. Young had five sacks in his first seven games with the Commanders, but after being traded to the San Francisco 49ers, he cooled off in his final nine. He finished the season on a high note, recording a sack in the Super Bowl and another hit that pushed Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes into an intentional grounding call.

“In my mind, (that) was like two sacks in the Super Bowl,” Allen said, smiling. “So I do think he is still a young developing player, which is exciting for me.”

To date, Young has not matured into the generational pass rusher that was expected of him when he was drafted in 2020. Young’s knee injury nine games into his second season may have been the most limiting factor in his development.
He needed to have both knees operated on to get back on track. In addition to damaging his right ACL, he ripped his patellar tendon, necessitating a graft from his left knee to heal the right. Young’s recuperation was so extensive that he did not return until three games remained in the 2022 season. In those games, he appeared to be a very different player.

Loomis stated that the Saints “felt fine” about Young’s knee, which was inspected during his physical.

Young’s contract also includes a sizable per-game roster bonus of up to roughly $8 million, which provides New Orleans with financial relief if he is unable to play. That alone illustrates that the Saints recognize the risk associated with signing Young, regardless how much confidence the upper brass has in Young.
The danger was insufficient to offset the possible return.

“He’s extremely talented,” Allen stated.

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