Patrick Queen stood at the microphone adjacent to the Ravens’ practice field in Owings Mills on Thursday fielding questions about his future in Baltimore. Nearby, general manager Eric DeCosta jogged up a set of stairs leading into the offices of owner Steve Biscotti’s castle.
For now, Queen remains a Raven. For how long remains to be seen.
Last month, the Ravens declined Queen’s fifth-year option, making the 23-year-old a free agent after this season — if he isn’t traded or signed to an extension before then.
“It’s a blessing in disguise,” Queen said during voluntary organized team activities Thursday. “You see guys go both sides of it and get paid either way.
“I’m not focused on the future. I’m focused on right now. If I take care of my business, all of that will fall into place.”
It just might not be in Baltimore.
While the Ravens’ decision to decline Queen’s option was anything but a surprise, it was perhaps telling.
Last season, Baltimore acquired All-Pro linebacker Roquan Smith in a trade with the Chicago Bears. In January, Smith signed a five-year extension reportedly worth $100 million. A month later, Queen scrubbed all mentions of the Ravens from his social media accounts.
Then in April, Baltimore spent a third-round draft pick on Clemson linebacker Trenton Simpson. Minutes later, Queen tweeted, “Sheesh.”
The writing seems to be on the wall, figuratively and literally.
Had the Ravens picked up Queen’s option, it would have come with a $12.7 million price tag in 2024. Should he have another season similar to the one he just had — when he set career highs in tackles (117), sacks (five), quarterback hits (14), interceptions (two) and passes defended (six) — tying up more top-end money at the position would likely be prohibitive for Baltimore.
Still, DeCosta insists that he wants to try to get the 2020 first-round pick out of LSU signed to an extension, though that might prove easier said than done.
“People want to jump to conclusions [and say], ‘Oh [Simpson] is going to replace Patrick,’” DeCosta said last month. “I can tell you this: Patrick Queen had a helluva 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.”
Whatever happens, Queen said his focus is on just trying to be the best player he can. So far, that’s been pretty good.
Though he hasn’t lived up to quarterback Lamar Jackson’s hype of being “Ray Lewis Jr.,” he has shown steady improvement each of his first three years in Baltimore, with his Pro Football Focus grade climbing every season. That included going from a 43.5 overall mark in 2021 to 70 last season.
Yet, he has also struggled on occasion. In 2021, Queen lost his inside linebacker spot to 32-year-old veteran Josh Bynes and was moved to the weak side. He also played about five fewer snaps per game that season than he did in 2020.
Smith’s midseason arrival last year certainly helped, and now the two will have an entire offseason together.
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“I put us as the best two linebackers, no discussion about it,” said Queen, who added that he’s down to about 230 pounds in an effort to be in better shape and finish games stronger. “If you turn on the tape, you’ll see.”
He’s not far off. Over the final eight weeks of last season, PFF graded Queen as the 10th-best off-ball linebacker in the league.
But that catch-22 is exactly what could ultimately make him expendable, something he’s had to come to grips with even though he says he’d like to stay in Baltimore.
“Anything in life, you go through emotions,” Queen said. “And at the end of the day, it may take some others longer to get over it, and I just had many talks from many people and different outlooks on it.”
That included the front office, Queen said, adding that they let him know how they feel.
“This is where I want to play,” Queen said.
For now, that’s all he can worry about.