As was the case with each of the other middle linebackers selected in the first round of the 2020 draft, Patrick Queendid not have his fifth-year option picked up this spring. As a result, his future with the Ravens beyond this season is in doubt.
Baltimore has expressed a desire to retain Queen past the 2023 campaign, and the 24-year-old has reciprocated that sentiment. However, the Ravens have trade deadline acquisition Roquan Smith on the books with a five-year, $100MM contract signed not long after his arrival, giving the team one major financial commitment at the position. A potential Queen replacement was also added via the draft in the form of third-rounder Trenton Simpson.
Those moves have led to the belief that Queen will price himself out of Baltimore if he delivers a strong season in his walk year. The record-setting Smith extension and the Simpson addition could have been a contributing factor to Queen’s offseason decision to scrub the Ravens from his social media accounts (a common sign of frustration with contract situations), but it was instead a lack of progress on extension talks which caused that course of action, as he recently revealed.
“There were talks and then some stuff fell through,” the LSU alum said, via Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic (subscription required). “Obviously, you get upset. I’m probably going to be gone. That’s, at least, what I was thinking in my head. I’m thinking that I’m gone. Everybody reacts out of emotion to certain things.”
As Zrebiec notes, Queen’s mindset has shifted in a more positive direction since talks broke down, and he was a full participant in training camp. Still, it is difficult to imagine the Ravens making a second eight-figure-per-year commitment at the LB spot, something which will be required if Queen builds off his improved play late last year following Smith’s arrival. As a result, the former represents a logical trade candidate, but no consideration has been given to moving on before a potential free agent departure.
“I got to the point where I was like, ‘Look at who is on your team. Look at how they’re treating you. They’re not about to trade you.’ There were never trade talks or anything,” Queen confirmed. “It was always, ‘We believe in you, you’re our guy.’ It just fuels you and it makes you want to play well. Looking at everybody on the team, you have the chance to do something special here. Why not?”
Expectations will be high for Queen and the Ravens this season, and his individual performance will go a long way in determining his free agent value. They will also no doubt have an effect on the team’s willingness and ability to re-engage in negotiations for what could be a very lucrative second contract.
The expectations have been high for Ravens linebacker Patrick Queen ever since he heard his name announced from the Bronxville home of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. In 2019, the Ravens felt the significant loss of four-time second-team All-Pro selection and Pro Bowler C.J. Mosley as they trotted out Patrick Onwuasor, Josh Bynes, and L.J. Fort in starting positions. With Queen failing to quite fill the shoes left by Mosley and the legends before him (Daryl Smith, Ray Lewis), he may find himself on the trade block heading into the 2023 season.
For three years, Queen was part of a stout LSU defense. He didn’t find much playing time in his first two seasons with the Tigers, playing behind future Pro Bowler Devin White. In his junior season, though, Queen finally found significant time on the field, starting 11 of 15 games in the team’s National Championship season and winning defensive MVP honors for the season finale win over Clemson. Despite only having started 16 of 41 career games, Queen opted to forgo his senior year at LSU and enter the 2020 NFL Draft.
Queen ended up as the fourth inside linebacker drafted in the first round that year, but at this point in time, he may be the most successful of the four. All four first-round picks from that year had their fifth-year options declined, and while Jordyn Brooks has had some highly productive seasons in Seattle, the back half of Queen’s 2022 season may be the best linebacker play we’ve seen out of that draft class so far.
Queen hit the ground running in Baltimore, starting every game of his NFL career so far. In his first two seasons of NFL play, Queen put up the numbers that a starting inside linebacker should. Over his first 33 games, he collected 204 total tackles, five sacks, 19 tackles for loss, 13 quarterback hits, three force fumbles, three fumble recoveries (one for a touchdown), three passes defensed, and an interception.
Despite lighting up all the different areas of the stat sheet, analytics failed to see the hype of Queen as a top linebacker. According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), the young linebacker ranked 82nd out of 83 ranked players at his position in his rookie year and 71st of 86 in his sophomore season.
Queen had a bit of a breakout year in 2022. He posted career-highs in total tackles (117), sacks (5.0), quarterback hits (14), passes defensed (6), and interceptions (2). Analytically, he also slotted in at PFF’s 31st best linebacker, a significant improvement over previous years. It wasn’t just the increased experience or finally adjusting to the speed of the game at the NFL level that led to this breakout. The midseason acquisition of first-team All-Pro linebacker Roquan Smith paid huge dividends towards Queen’s improvement.
Smith’s addition affected Queen’s situation in more ways than just on-the-field improvement. At the conclusion of the season, a big money extension to Smith, the newcomer in Baltimore, made it clear where the Ravens’ priorities lie at linebacker. While they were surely happy to see the improvement from Queen throughout his third season in the league, Queen hadn’t quite shown enough in his first three years to warrant a fifth-year option pickup, and in the meantime, the Ravens were getting cozy long-term with Smith.
Early reports indicated that Queen could find himself on the trade block leading up to the 2023 NFL Draft. When nothing came of those rumors, it was reported that Baltimore had hopes of extending Queen. While that’s a nice sentiment, it’s not common to see two off-ball linebackers on the same team get paid big money. With Smith’s new contract averaging $20MM per year, paying Queen top dollar is just not feasible.
Queen himself spoke on the situation and claimed that he hopes to remain with the team for an extended period. In order to do that, though, Queen likely will have to take less money than he’s probably looking for in his second NFL contract. In an ideal world, Queen’s second contract could approach $8MM to $9MM per year. But with the Ravens recent deals, I think Queen would be lucky to get around $7MM. The Ravens may be able to offer something around a three-year, $20MM deal or a four-year, $25MM extension, but is that a deal Queen would consider?
Likely, Queen would see the vast improvement he made in Year 3 and opt to bet on himself in a contract year. He may see that he’s pricing his way out of Baltimore like many Ravens defenders before him. If that’s the case, the Ravens, seeing the writing on the wall that they may be losing Queen regardless, may decide that they want to get something in return for Queen as opposed to nothing.
If the two sides can’t reach common ground in extension negotiations, Baltimore may opt to trade their former first-round pick away for draft compensation. The move would also clear approximately $2.27MM of cap space, according to OvertheCap.com. It’s not the ideal scenario for either side, but both sides are going to feel they have leverage in this negotiation. Queen, having just completed the best season of his career, will want to get paid for his best football. The Ravens, on the other hand, secured one of the league’s best linebackers to a five-year deal and drafted Clemson linebacker Trenton Simpson in the third round of this year’s draft. Obviously, Simpson is an unproven commodity, but if he can slot in successfully next to Smith, Queen may become superfluous.
So, that’s the situation. Queen and the Ravens both appear interested in a long-term relationship that keeps Queen alongside Smith in Baltimore. The Ravens, likely anticipating the desires of their top 2020 draft pick, have bolstered themselves with Smith and Simpson. If Queen decides to draw a line on his worth that the Ravens can’t reach, the team may be ready to move on from the ascending, young player and seek compensation for what they will eventually lose for nothing.
The Ravens have a number of key players set to play the final year of their contracts in 2023, leaving plenty of decisions to be made in the near future. A mix of younger and veteran contributors could soon find themselves signing new deals.
The 33-year-old has been in Baltimore since 2021, and he has been a steady presence at right guard during that span. Zeitler has earned PFF grades in line with much of the rest of his career over the past two seasons, leading to his desire for a new contract ahead of his walk year. Zrebeic notes that Zeitler’s asking price is unknown at this point, but a mutual interest exists to extend the relationship between player and club especially on a short-term deal from the latter’s perspective.
Zrebiec adds that 2020 draftees Patrick Queen,J.K. Dobbinsand Devin Duvernaycould all be on the Ravens’ radar with respect to new deals, but value will be crucial for the former two in particular with other players likely a more cost-effective priority. Duvernay could find himself holding off on an extension to boost his value in new offensive coordinator Todd Monken‘s system.
Here are some other notes from Charm City:
Safety Kyle Hamiltonmissed just one game in his rookie season last year, but he dealt with a lingering wrist injury for much of the campaign. As noted in an interview the first-rounder had with Zrebiec, he underwent surgery this offseason to address the issue. Hamilton, 22, now feels fully healed, something which will help him take on a full-time starting role this season. The Notre Dame product totaled 62 stops, a pair of sacks and five pass deflections last year, but the trade of Chuck Clarkleaves him in line as a key member of Baltimore’s secondary now and in the future.
The Ravens have invested heavily at the WR spot this offseason, signing Odell Beckham Jr.and Nelson Agholorand using their top draft pick on Zay Flowers. Laquon Treadwellinked a deal with the Ravens earlier this month, giving him a chance to make the team’s roster during training camp. If he does, the four aforementioned pass-catchers, along with 2021 draftee Rashod Bateman, would combine to give the Ravens five former first-round picks at the receiver spot. No team has had that many Day 1 selections catch a pass in the same season, as noted by ESPN’s Jamison Hensley. Plenty of question remarks remain regarding Baltimore’s passing attack – one which has signficant room for improvement in 2023 – but the team could make an interesting piece of history this season depending on how their WR room shakes out in the summer.
With Lamar Jackson‘s contract situation now in the rearview, attention has increasingly turned to the Ravens’ other offseason priorities. One of those could be working out a long-term deal with linebacker Patrick Queen.
The latter is set to play the final season of his rookie contract in 2023, since the Ravens declined his fifth-year option. That decision fell in line with the ones made by other teams around the league at the LB position, and left Baltimore off the hook for what would have been a $12.72MM price tag for Queen. However, it would not come as a surprise if he were to remain with the team beyond this coming season.
Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta recently made it clear that the team’s intention remains a multi-year deal for Queen despite their decision on his option. Negotiations with the LSU product have a number of complicating factors to consider, including the historic deal fellow linebacker Roquan Smithwas signed to not long after his midseason trade acquisition. Making two major financial commitments at the position would be challenging, especially with Jackson’s $51MM-per-year contract now on the books. Some eyebrows were also raised (including by Queen himself) after Baltimore selected his potential successor, Trenton Simpson, in the third round of this year’s draft.
In spite of those developments, Queen is reciprocating the feeling on the team’s part with respect to finalizing a long-term contract. The 23-year-old enjoyed a career year last season, eclipsing 100 tackles for the second time while adding five sacks and a pair of interceptions. His comments on his future suggest he is prepared to play out the 2023 season without any certainty with respect to his financial status.
“I had many talks with many people and different outlooks on it,” Queen said of his situation, via team reporter Clifton Brown. “I just came to the realization that everything is not a bad thing. The front office, [I] talked to them a little bit. They keep me grounded and let me know what it really was and how they feel. At the end of the day, they know that this is the place I want to play. This is the place I want to be. So, however the chips fall, I’m happy with it.”
Another strong season from Queen could set himself up for a big-ticket extension, albeit one which would likely come in at a lower rate than what the 2023 option or a 2024 franchise tag (roughly $20MM for all linebackers) would cost. For now, his attention is aimed at the upcoming season, one in which he and the Ravens will face high expectations, though his financial situation will remain one worth watching.
The 2020 first-round contingent collectively brought skepticism from teams over the past week and change. A record-low 12 fifth-year options were exercised. Off-ball linebackers certainly felt this doubt — at least, from a financial perspective — as the teams with linebacker options passed en masse.
Prior to Simpson’s arrival and the Ravens’ decision to decline Queen’s $12.72MM option, a Queen trade rumor emerged. But, even with the $20MM-per-year Smith extension and the team choosing Simpson (Scouts Inc.’s No. 54 overall prospect) 86th overall, Ravens GM Eric DeCosta views Queen as a player the Ravens want beyond his contract year.
“People want to jump to conclusions [and say], ‘Oh [Simpson] is going to replace Patrick,'” DeCosta said during an appearance on The Lounge podcast (via BaltimoreRavens.com’s Ryan Mink). “I can tell you this. Patrick Queen had a hell of a year last year. Patrick Queen is a very talented, in my mind, Pro Bowl-type linebacker. He’s going to have a great year this year.
“We want Patrick Queen on this team; we want to keep him on this team. We will, at some point, try to get him signed, hopefully, to an extension if we can.”
Queen and Smith formed a top-end ILB duo last season, and the younger defender totaled a career-high 117 tackles and five sacks to help a Ravens team down Lamar Jackson reach the playoffs. Queen, 23, also finished with two interceptions and a forced fumble. Pro Football Focus viewed Queen as making a significant improvement in 2023, slotting him just outside the top 30 among off-ball ‘backers.
“The fifth-year option was something that was more based on business and the salary cap economics than actually Patrick Queen and his performance and what he does as a player,” DeCosta said. “He’s a difference-maker for us. When we had Patrick Queen and Roquan Smith last year over the last half of the season, we had a chance to see how dominant our defense could be.”
Teams’ recent option decisions could lead to an eventful off-ball linebacker market forming next year. Devin White requested a trade ahead of his fifth-year option slate; he is due for 2024 free agency. So are Logan Wilson and Willie Gay. This year’s market did not prove fruitful for many parties, falling off after Edmunds’ $18MM-per-year Bears accord. Okereke ($10MM AAV) was the only other linebacker to sign a deal averaging north of $7MM.
For 2023, the Ravens have a deep linebacking group; Simpson and former third-rounder Malik Harrison are in place behind the starters. DeCosta said other teams’ decisions led the Ravens to Simpson, who was not necessarily the team’s target in Round 3. The best-available pick could lead to a big-picture decision involving Queen in the near future.
NFL teams have until May 2 to officially pick up fifth-year options on 2020 first-rounders who are entering the final year of their rookie deals. The 2020 CBA revamped the option structure and made them fully guaranteed, rather than guaranteed for injury only. Meanwhile, fifth-year option salaries are now determined by a blend of the player’s position, initial draft placement and performance- and usage-based benchmarks:
Two-time Pro Bowlers (excluding alternate Pro Bowlers) will earn the same as their position’s franchise tag.
One-time Pro Bowlers will earn the equivalent of the transition tag.
Players who achieve any of the following will get the average of the third-20th highest salaries at their position:
At least a 75% snap rate in two of their first three seasons
A 75% snap average across all three seasons
At least 50% in each of first three seasons
Players who do not hit any of those benchmarks will receive the average of the third-25th top salaries at their position.
With the deadline looming, we’ll use the space below to track all the option decisions from around the league:
The Ravens have made one major financial commitment to a member of the linebacking corps, but a second will not be coming. Patrick Queen‘s fifth-year option will not be exercised, per Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic (Twitter link).
Queen would have been due a 2024 salary of $12.72MM has the Ravens picked up the option. Instead, the 23-year-old will now enter a contract year while facing an uncertain future. Signs pointing to this decision emerged in the middle of the 2022 campaign, and continued during last weekend’s draft.
Baltimore traded for Roquan Smithat the deadline, sending the Bears a package including a second-round pick in exchange. Given that price, many assumed a long-term deal would soon follow, and it did. Smith signed a five-year, $100MM contract in January, making him the highest-paid linebacker in league history. His arrival led to a tangible uptick in Queen’s level of play down the stretch.
The latter finished the 2022 season with 117 tackles, five sacks, a pair of interceptions and six pass deflections. Those stats were reflected in a sizeable jump in PFF rating; the LSU product’s overall grade jumped to 70 last season after checking in at 43.5 the year before. Still, the Smith deal would have made it particularly difficult for the Ravens to absorb another eight-figure cap charge at the position.
Baltimore raised some eyebrows with the selection of linebacker Trenton Simpson in the third round of the draft. Queen himself reacted on social media in a way which hinted he felt the decision hurt his chances of remaining with the team beyond next season. Simpson boasts one of the more unique skillsets in this year’s class, showcasing an ability to play on the inside but also as an edge rusher and even a slot corner at times.
While he thus wouldn’t represent a direct replacement for Queen, Simpson could be viewed as a succession plan to an extent. Even before the draft, the former was mentioned as a potential trade candidate, and it will be worth monitoring if any developments on that front take place given today’s news. Even if there aren’t any, Queen’s next season in Baltimore could be his last.
Queen was a first-round pick by Baltimore in 2020, and the LSU product has certainly backed up his draft stock through his first three seasons in the NFL. He collected 106 tackles and three sacks as a rookie, earning him PFWA All-Rookie Team honors. After seeing his numbers drop a bit in 2021, Queen had a career year this past season, finishing with 117 tackles and five sacks. He ultimately finished the year ranked 31st among 81 qualifying linebackers, per Pro Football Focus, with the site giving him position-leading grades for his pass-rushing ability.
After trading for Smith last season, the Ravens gave him a five-year, $100MM contract ($45MM guaranteed) in January. That contract made Smith the highest-paid off-ball LB in the NFL, and it will predictably influence the team’s decision making elsewhere on the roster. With so much money committed to Smith (and with the front office eyeing a fifth-year option decision on Queen this offseason), it makes sense that they’d look to trade off one of their linebackers.
The Ravens are only armed with five selections heading into this year’s draft, so a Queen trade could help them add to their arsenal. As La Canfora notes, the Ravens need a cornerback, and while there should be some highly graded players available when they pick at No. 22, one anonymous executive believes the front office could trade back and still land a top-end player at the position.
“I think six [corners] go in the first round,” the executive told La Canfora, “and [the Ravens are] probably thinking they can get one they like later on — maybe even the second round — and add picks.”
In a press conference this past Thursday, Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta spoke to the future of several Ravens players as the team heads into the offseason. Although the free agency of quarterback Lamar Jackson is obviously the main headline of Baltimore’s offseason, DeCosta still has plenty on his plate from key free agents like cornerback Marcus Peters and offensive guard Ben Powers to veterans flirting with retirement like defensive tackle Calais Campbell.
Peters is headed towards free agency this offseason after three seasons in Baltimore. The Ravens have been fairly top-heavy at the cornerback position in the past few years with Peters and Marlon Humphrey. They invested some draft capital in the position last year, selecting rookies Jalyn Armour-Davis and Damarion Williams, but due to experience and injuries, they were still forced to rely on contributions from the likes of Daryl Worley and Kevon Seymour. The team signed free agent Kyle Fuller in the offseason, but a Week 1 knee injury knocked him out for the year. DeCosta hinted that the team will continue to try and add more talent at cornerback regardless of whether or not they are able to re-sign Peters.
Powers continued his play this year as a full-time starter and had his best NFL season in a contract year. He may follow the likes of former Ravens’ linemen like Ryan Jensen and Kelechi Osemele, who priced themselves out of a new contract in Baltimore in the past.
The Ravens were able to sign trade acquisition Roquan Smith to a long-term deal and now are faced with the contract situation of fellow linebacker Patrick Queen. Queen’s play elevated substantially while playing alongside Smith and has the Ravens considering his future going into this offseason. DeCosta said he isn’t ready to announce that they will pick up Queen’s fifth-year option, but he made sure to clarify that Smith’s contract won’t preclude them from signing Queen long-term.
Lastly, the Ravens have two esteemed veterans that could consider hanging up their cleats. Campbell mulled retirement last season and will likely kick the idea around a bit once again this offseason. Pass rusher Justin Houston is under contract for another season but could potentially call it a career. He stated recently that he does intend to keep playing, and both athletes met with DeCosta before leaving town for the offseason.
Here are a few more rumors from around the AFC North, starting with the main storyline for the offseason in Charm City:
Ryan Clark referenced a debate on ESPN’s first take recently about the details of offers made to Jackson. A source provided knowledge that the Ravens’ initial offer had $113MM in guaranteed money and that offer was eventually upped to $133MM. That guaranteed amount doesn’t come anywhere close to Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson‘s $230MM guaranteed contract, but the second offer would be the most guaranteed money to any quarterback in the NFL besides Watson.
The Steelers’ coaching staff is set to undergo some changes this offseason. According to Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, one coach on his way out is assistant wide receivers coach Blaine Stewart who is set to join the staff at West Virginia University. Stewart’s father, Bill, served as head coach of the Mountaineers from 2008-10.
The Buccaneers parted ways with offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich at the end of this season. The Athletic’s Mark Kaboly speculated that, unless Leftwich finds work elsewhere as an offensive play caller, the former Steelers quarterback could find a role as an offensive assistant on Mike Tomlin‘s staff. Kaboly posits that a role as senior offensive assistant/passing-game coordinator could be in play for Leftwich. Leftwich would essentially be a coordinator-in-waiting as current offensive coordinator Matt Canada is in the final year of his contract.
Specifically, Donald has intentions of returning by Week 15 for a Sunday night matchup against the Packers. Donald has his ankle immobilized to promote its healing and is determined to make a comeback this season. Rapoport posits that “the way Donald is wired, he has no plans to shut it down regardless of the team’s record.”
Here are a couple of other injury rumors, starting with another one of the Rams injured stars:
Although it remains undetermined whether or not the Rams have any plans of bringing back their star quarterback, the newest updates indicate that Stafford’s recent placement on IRmarks the end of his season, according to Jourdan Rodrigue of The Athletic. Head coach Sean McVay explained Stafford’s injury as a spinal cord contusion. With the team sitting at 3-9, good for last place in the NFC West, Los Angeles probably doesn’t think it’s worth the risk to trot the 34-year-old quarterback out on the field with so little on the line.
The Seahawks took some real lumps in their win over the Rams today, sustaining a litany of injuries to their running backs room. Already short primary backup Travis Homer, who was downgraded to out prior to kickoff after dealing with illness and a knee injury all week, both starter Kenneth Walker III and third-string DeeJay Dallas exited the game with ankle injuries. Walker was quickly ruled out for the rest of the game while Dallas was designated as doubtful to return, leaving the team with only fourth-string running back Tony Jones. Minutes later, Jones would take a big hit that would put him in the medical tent, forcing the previously doubtful Dallas to return to the game. Seattle has dealt with injuries in the position room all year. Aside from losing Rashaad Pennyfor the season, Walker joined the team late after a hernia surgery and Homer previously spent four weeks on IR. With all those absences, it’s no surprise the Seahawks picked Jones up off of waivers in October and are now carrying four running backs on the active roster. Nobody could’ve guessed that four wouldn’t be enough.