Patrick Queen knows there's been plenty of talk about his next contract, but he came to OTAs focused on football.
Queen had his best season in 2022, taking his game to another level after the Ravens traded for All-Pro inside linebacker Roquan Smith. Queen is entering the final year of his rookie deal and would like to have a contract extension already in place. But if Queen plays even better than last season, he believes his future will work out just fine.
"It's a blessing in disguise, really," Queen said. "You see guys go both sides of it and get paid either way. At the end of the day, I'm just focused on being the best teammate I can be, being the best player that I can be and just going out there and proving myself. Going out there and playing the game that I love to play at a high level."
When joining "The Lounge" podcast earlier this month, General Manager Eric DeCosta made it clear that he wants to ink Queen to a contract extension. The Ravens drafted inside linebacker Trenton Simpson in the third round, but the Ravens have believed in Queen's talent since making him a first-round pick (28th overall) in 2020.
"People want to jump to conclusions [and say], 'Oh [Simpson] is going to replace Patrick,'" DeCosta said. "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."
Queen is entering the final year of his rookie contract because the Ravens declined his fifth-year option, which would have cost $12.7 million in 2024.
"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.
During his breakout 2022 season, Queen set career highs in tackles (117), sacks (5.0), interceptions (two) and passes defensed (six) last season. Queen elevated his play even before Smith arrived, and together they gave Baltimore arguably the best inside linebacker duo in the NFL. The Ravens defense allowed just 14.7 points per game in the nine regular-season games after Smith came to Baltimore.
Instead of skipping voluntary OTAs after the Ravens declined to pick up his fifth-year option, Queen arrived last week even more determined to play his best football.
"[I'm] just trying to get better," Queen said. "Obviously, Roquan is here now, getting an offseason with us. So, [I'm] just trying to build that chemistry, trying to learn (Defensive Coordinator) Mike (Macdonald) more, trying to learn the defense more, trying to get all of us get on the same page. That's my main focus right now."
Smith, who signed a five-year extension with the Ravens last season that made him the game's highest-paid inside linebacker, knows what it feels like to enter a contract year. He admires the way Queen has handled the situation and loves playing alongside him.
"I truly enjoy working with that guy." Smith said. "I think he's a pro at the end of the day. He's out here to get better with the guys. He's just trying to make this year his best year. I'm excited to just be next to him, playing with him and making each other better."
Queen said it took him a little time to deal with his emotions after his fifth-year option was not picked up, but he is back on an even keel, ready to focus on playing the best football of this career.
"You go through emotions and at the end of the day, it may take some of us longer to get over," Queen said. "I had many talks with many people and different outlooks on it. 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.
"I'm just focused on right now. I think if I take care of my business and do what I'm supposed to do, all of that will fall into place."