Baltimore's decision to decline Patrick Queen's fifth-year option was a bit of an eyebrow-raising call.
Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta followed up that decision by selecting Clemson linebacker Trenton Simpson in the 2023 NFL Draft, effectively supplying the Ravens with a replacement for Queen after the 2023 season. But it's not that simple, according to DeCosta.
"People want to jump to conclusions [and say], 'Oh [Simpson] is going to replace Patrick,'" DeCosta said during an appearance on the Ravens' The Lounge Podcast. "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."
DeCosta certainly isn't guaranteeing an extension for Queen, especially not after it took him more than a year to get a deal done with Lamar Jackson. He's already spending $20 million per year on Smith (on average), and just signed his quarterback to a deal that will pay him an annual average of $52 million.
There isn't a ton of money to go around, and if the Ravens had picked up Queen's option, they'd be on the hook for over $26 million between Queen and Smith. Instead of taking on such a significant financial commitment, DeCosta decided to risk losing Queen altogether if contract negotiations don't advance before the start of the 2024 league year.
It's a necessary risk in a world in which DeCosta and his staff must constantly crunch numbers in order to stay under the cap. It also might not be that serious, given that DeCosta has nine months to determine whether he'd like to keep Queen, and, if so, structure a deal that can both accurately represent Baltimore's view of the linebacker while pushing the largest of financial burdens into future years.
"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."
Instead of signaling to Queen that his days in Baltimore were numbered, as DeCosta sees it, the Ravens are just discarding security for a chance to remain financially flexible. Queen very well could sign an extension that is more friendly to the team's salary cap gurus tomorrow. For now, though, 2023 will be a season of opportunity for Queen to prove his worth on the open market. This, plus time to negotiate, might end up keeping him in Baltimore.