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Mailbag: Can the Ravens Extend Patrick Queen, Justin Madubuike?

From left: DT Justin Madubuike, ILB Patrick Queen
From left: DT Justin Madubuike, ILB Patrick Queen

Mink: I think the Ravens would love to keep Patrick Queen and Justin Madubuike on this team for years to come. However, I think their prices have only gone up as they're off to the best starts of their careers, and they could be pricing themselves out of Baltimore.

Queen is on pace for a whopping 150 tackles and 10 sacks. Madubuike is on pace for a career-high 56 tackles and 13 sacks. If they finish with those numbers, or even close to it, they would command contracts near the top of the league at their respective positions if they hit the open market.

The Ravens could opt to use the franchise tag on one of them. They would be the only real candidates. I expect General Manager Eric DeCosta, who after declining Queen's fifth-year option said he plans to try to get Queen signed to an extension, will fire up talks with both players. Maybe it happens during this season, maybe after, maybe following a tag.

While I have no doubt the desire is there, the realities are that Lamar Jackson's contract will occupy a bigger slice of the salary-cap pie (it jumps more than $10 million next year to $32.4 million), which leaves less for others. The fact that Baltimore already inked Roquan Smith and Broderick Washington to extensions begs the question of whether the Ravens can afford another expensive player at the same position.

I'm no capologist. When there's a strong enough will, there's often a way to shuffle money around and make things work. But the cap is the cap, and at the end of the day, the Ravens can't afford to keep everybody. I think they'll try, but it would be a surprise if they are able to keep both and wouldn't be shocking if both are unfortunately playing elsewhere next year. Let's enjoy the ride while they're here.

Brown: It's somewhat concerning that the Ravens' red zone efficiency is trending in the wrong direction. They struggled in Week 6 against the Titans, scoring just one touchdown on six red zone trips. That's in sharp contrast to earlier this season when the Ravens scored 12 touchdowns on their first 15 trips to the red zone and led the NFL with an 80% efficiency rate.

Jackson did major damage in the red zone with his legs early in the season, rushing for two touchdowns in both Week 3 and Week 4. However, the Steelers and Titans did whatever it took to negate Jackson as a red zone runner the past two weeks, and Baltimore wasn't able to counter successfully.

The NFL is all about adjustments, and the coaches and players know red zone efficiency needs to improve for Baltimore to win consistently. You mentioned that the Ravens are keeping opponents in the game, and that's because they've gone two weeks without scoring a touchdown in the second half. They only scored one touchdown in the second half in their Week 3 loss to the Colts.

Baltimore's offense is healthier than it was earlier this season with Odell Beckham Jr. and Rashod Bateman back in the lineup, and the offensive line back at full strength. Despite their recent red zone struggles, the Ravens are ranked No. 11 in total offense and No. 16 in scoring, and I believe they have enough talent to rank in the top 10 in both categories. The offense under coordinator Todd Monken is still evolving just six weeks into the season, but becoming more proficient in the red zone especially in the second half are clearly areas the Ravens need to focus on.

Mink: The NFL trade deadline this year is on Halloween, Oct. 31, and DeCosta seemingly always has something boiling in his cauldron. He's made a significant deal three of his four years as GM (Marcus Peters in 2019, Yannick Ngakoue in 2020, Smith in 2022). So I'm sure DeCosta will be on the hunt again this year. If the Ravens were to make a deal, I would expect it to be for a pass rusher or running back.

You can never have too many pass rushers, and the Ravens probably want to manage Jadeveon Clowney and Kyle Van Noy's snaps down the stretch to keep the veterans fresh. Odafe Oweh should be back on the field soon, but David Ojabo seems a bit further away and Tyus Bowser's status this season also seems up in the air. The Ravens are doing well getting sacks and pressures from numerous players across the board, but they wouldn't turn down the opportunity to get a stud pass rusher.

At running back, Gus Edwards and Justice Hill have done a solid job stepping up after J.K. Dobbins' season-ending injury, but they're averaging 3.9 and 4.1 yards per carry. If the Ravens feel they can add a playmaking difference-maker in the backfield that can take the offense to another level, I think they would be interested. Plus, it's a buyer's market at running back these days and the Ravens' only running backs under contract for next year are Hill and Keaton Mitchell. It could make short- and long-term sense at the right price.

Brown: I'm not sure Mitchell will be used more in the running game against the Lions if Edwards and Hill are healthy. The Lions have the NFL's top-ranked rushing defense allowing just 64.7 yards per game. The Ravens will have their work cut out running against Detroit no matter who carries the football.

However, I think Mitchell has a chance to work his way into the running back rotation at some point this season due to his speed and ability to catch the football. He caught 60 passes during his career at East Carolina and Monken likes to target running backs. The season is a grind for running backs and giving Mitchell some reps could take some load off the veterans.

The keys for Mitchell are to practice well enough to earn playing time, and to protect the football if he gets an opportunity.

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