Ravens Finally Make Decision on Patrick Queen’s Future: Report

Ravens ILB Patrick Queen

Getty Ravens ILB Patrick Queen reportedly isn't going to have his fifth-year contract option picked up.

It appears that the Baltimore Ravens have finally come to a decision on the future of starting inside linebacker Patrick Queen beyond the 2023 season. According to a report from The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec per a source, the team will not be picking up the fifth-year option on the former first-round pick’s contract.

General manager Eric DeCosta declined to comment on whether they intended to exercise his contract option on the first night of the draft and following the selection of what many believe is either his eventual and potentially immediate replacement on Day 2 with the pick of Clemson linebacker Trenton Simpson in the third round of the 2023 NFL Draft at No. 86 overall.

“As far as Patrick goes, [I’m] not going to address that right now,” he said during Thursday night’s post-draft press conference. “I probably will maybe later this week. As the Draft ends, we’ll talk about that, but I’m not going to talk about that right now.”

Zrebiec believes that the decision to not pick up the option that would keep him under contract through the 2024 season “seemed likely” even before they selected Simpson despite the growth he has made and the talent he possesses and has flashed. He cited the market-setting contract they signed First-Team All-Pro Roquan Smith prior to the end of the 2022 season after trading for him as the likely primary reason.

“[With] Smith on books at $20 mill per ($13.5 cap hit in ’24), tough to commit so much to [inside linebacker] position,” he wrote.

The team selected Queen at No. 28 overall in the 2020 NFL Draft out of LSU and he has been a full-time starter since he entered the league, starting all 50 of his career games.

In three seasons, he has averaged 107 total tackles each year and is coming off his best season to date in which he finished with career-highs in total tackles (117), quarterback hits (14), sacks (five), interceptions (two), pass deflections (six), and fumble recoveries (two) according to Pro Football Reference.

Exercising his option would cost the Ravens $12.7 million for the 2024 season if they let him play it out instead of signing him an extension that would’ve lowered his cap hit for the first couple of years. Instead, Queen is now slated to hit free agency next offseason.

Will the Raven Consider Trading Queen?

Had the team made and announced this decision prior to the 2023 NFL Draft, they might have been able to find a partner to trade him to in exchange for draft capital that they could’ve used to take a player that would help them in 2023.

However, now that it has passed, any compensation they’d receive aside from a player-for-player trade scenario wouldn’t come until 2024 at the earliest. It makes more sense to keep what was arguably the best inside linebacker duo down the stretch last season intact for at least one more year.

The team is poised to be one of the top contenders in a loaded AFC after having one of the better offseasons in the league according to NFL.com’s Dan Hanzus’ post-draft power rankings that had them make the leap from No. 13 to No. 7.

“Everything In Its Right Place. Lamar Jackson is back with his flock on a historic new contract, and the clouds have parted in an instant above Charm City,” he wrote. “Baltimore used the top of its draft on Boston College star Zay Flowers, a dynamic playmaker who joins a wide receiver room that has more talent than it did at any previous time during Jackson’s tenure as starter. Flowers, Odell Beckham Jr., and Rashod Bateman are a legit trio, while Mark Andrews returns as one of the best playmaking tight ends in the sport. Lamar got his money (well, most of it) … and the supporting cast he’s desired for years. It’s time for the Ravens’ offense to fly again.”

Although, at just 23 years old and playing on a cheap contract for this upcoming season while clearly still ascending, he could still fetch a nice price in a trade for a player at a position of need from another team.

If an injury were to occur or they end up striking out on trying to bring in a notable veteran free agent at cornerback post-draft after signings no longer impact the compensatory pick formula, the Ravens could be enticed to move him prior to the 2023 season.

Another path that might unfold could be that they hold onto Queen so that they can bring Simpson along somewhat slowly and then trade him to a needy team at the midseason trade deadline in a similar fashion to how they acquired Smith from the Chicago Bears last year.

If Queen continues his upward trajectory and starts 2023 off as hot as he ended 2022, they just might be able to fleece a potential trade partner out of a relatively high pick in next year’s draft. That would mean they wouldn’t have to wait for a compensatory pick in 2025 that might not come or be as high or could get negated by an unrestricted outside free agent signing of their own.

This is the New Normal Post Lamar Jackson Extension

As awesome as it would be to keep Smith and Queen together for two more years and perhaps even longer if they would’ve been able to sign him to a cheap early extension, now that they’ve made Jackson the highest-paid player in NFL history, the days of being able to afford such luxuries are over.

Going forward, DeCosta and Co. with have to be even more financially scrupulous, judicious, and strategic when it comes to the allocation of resources as it pertains to the salary cap. As Zrebiec said, tying up $30-plus million in a devalued position like off-ball linebacker wouldn’t be a “tough” and likely ill-advised use of their resources.

Opting to keep an elite player at the position like Smith and platooning at the WILL inside linebacker spot with young, fast, and inexpensive defenders that run and hit make the most sense.

The Ravens have always been a team that leans and believes more in the draft as a means of efficient roster building and DeCosta has even referred to it as the organization’s “lifeblood”. They will have to rely on it more than ever for the foreseeable future and will not only need to accumulate more picks but they will need those players to develop and play meaningful snaps much earlier in their careers.

Look no further than the reigning Super Bowl champions for an example of the best and most recent example of a team succeeding at the highest level with a young quarterback on a sizeable second contract. The Kansas City Chiefs are paying two-time league and Super Bowl MVP, Patrick Mahomes, an average annual salary of $45 million according to spotrac.com which is the seventh highest in the league.

Their second title run in the last four years was fueled and propelled by the impressive early contributions of their large 10-man draft class. Rookies like edge defender George Karlaftis, wide receiver Skyy Moore, safety Bryan Cook, cornerbacks Joshua Williams and Jaylen Watson, and especially seventh-round running back Isiah Pacheco each played vital roles and made pivotal plays in both the regular and postseason.

The Ravens are going to start needing their recently drafted youngsters to make similar impacts once Jackson’s cap hits begin to climb and responsible creative counting won’t be enough to keep them in contention consistently.

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