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A lot can change in a year, especially in the National Football League where NFL might as well stand for "Not For Long." That is certainly true in the case of pending, unrestricted free agent linebacker Patrick Queen. The Baltimore Ravens' 28th overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft entered the league with plenty of fanfare after helping LSU complete a perfect season en route to earning a College Football Playoff national championship.

Queen's first couple of seasons were somewhat rocky, but things changed in 2022 with the arrival of All-Pro linebacker Roquan Smith via a trade with the Chicago Bears

His presence unleashed Queen to be more aggressive as a pass rusher, and Queen racked up 48 pressures and 8.5 sacks across the last two seasons. Last offseason, it appeared as though the Ravens were gearing up to move on after declining his fifth-year option, signing Smith to a five-year deal worth $100 million and then selecting Clemson linebacker Trenton Simpson in the third round of the 2023 NFL Draft.

"It's a blessing in disguise, really," Queen told local media in the 2023 offseason, per "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."  

Queen played a critical role in Baltimore's 2023 defense becoming the first in NFL history to lead or co-lead the league in scoring defense (16.5 points per game allowed), sacks (60) and takeaways (31, tied for the most in the NFL with the New York Giants) all in the same season.  

The 24-year-old earned the first Pro Bowl and All-Pro (second team) nods of his four-year career, and his projected market value, per Spotrac, reflects that outstanding 2023 performance. On the open market, he could garner a five-year, $92.6 million deal with an average annual salary of $18.5 million. Those figures make sense given the company Queen keeps through his first four career seasons. He is one of only six players with at least 450 tackles and double-digit sacks since 2020, the span of his NFL career.

450 tackles and 10 sacks in last 4 seasons


Bobby Wagner



Roquan Smith



Devin White



Lavonte David



Demario Davis 



Patrick Queen*



* Queen: Entered NFL four seasons ago as 28th overall pick in 2020 NFL Draft

What also makes sense is the Ravens likely moving on from Queen because they are currently $10 million over the cap, per Over the Cap, and they did draft a youngster to develop behind him. Whoever lands Queen will likely see a noticeable difference in their team's tackling and ability to keep big plays in front of them. 

Here are a few landing spots for the steady inside linebacker. 

Washington Commanders

Washington possesses $91.5 million in cap space this offseason, the most in the entire league according to New head coach Dan Quinn presided over a defensive transformation of the Dallas Cowboys defense as their defensive coordinator that led to two corners, Trevon Diggs and DaRon Bland, leading the NFL in interceptions and earning All-Pro nods in his three seasons down in Texas. However, Quinn certainly realized the importance of having a strong inside linebacker to negate a team's run game after the way Aaron Jones brutalized his defense in the NFC wild-card round.

The Commanders have significant needs on defense since they profiled as the lowest-ranked team in scoring defense (30.5 points per game), total defense (388.9 total yards per game), passing touchdowns (39) and passer rating (105.7). Queen wouldn't have to move very far in relocating closer to the nation's capital. 

Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys Pro Bowl inside linebacker Leighton Vander Esch suffered a season-ending and perhaps career-ending neck injury in Week 5 at the San Francisco 49ers last season. Third-round rookie linebacker DeMarvion Overshown tore his ACL in training camp. He was expected to be an immediate contributer. That left Damone Clark, converted-safety Markquese Bell and safety Jayron Kearse getting the bulk of the snaps at inside linebacker most of the year. There were times in practice at The Star, the team's headquarters in Frisco, Texas, where only one or two guys were going through linebacker position drills because of the injuries. 

That made the Dallas defense susceptible on the ground, something contenders like the San Francisco 49ers (170 rushing yards), Buffalo Bills (266 rushing yards) and the Packers (143 rushing yards) all took advantage of. Green Bay quarterback Jordan Love said as much to Dallas All-Pro edge rusher Micah Parsons' face on Radio Row at the Super Bowl

"The key for us going into the game was we needed to run the ball," Love said on "The Edge with Micah Parsons" podcast. "That was a huge thing. Obviously we played y'all the year before [in 2022], and I feel like we ran the ball pretty well [Packers running back Aaron Jones totaled 138 rushing yards and a touchdown on 24 carries in a 31-28 overtime win]. Just going against y'all, I'm not trying to talk, but y'all linebackers [in the playoff game], I think y'all had a defensive back playing linebacker. That was our goal, to run the ball. That was going to set everything else up."   

Signing a heat-seeking missile like Queen could beef up a shallow inside linebacker position group and make Jerry Jones appear like he truly is attempting to be "all in."

New England Patriots

Queen has exactly the type of energy new head coach Jerod Mayo, a former NFL linebacker himself, can appreciate. New England possesses $88.5 million in effective cap space this offseason, second-most in the entire league, according to Over the Cap. The addition of Queen could help the Patriots rapidly accelerate their rebuild. 

Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles need to get tougher along their own line of scrimmages on both offense and defense, and Queen could help with that. Four inside linebackers from last season's Philly collapse are set to become free agents. The Eagles have $42.9. million in effective cap space this offseason, the 10th most in the league this offseason, per Over the Cap. Queen is the force multiplier Philly desperately needs to shore up its tackling after a ghastly postseason loss at the NFC South champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers


Queen takes the money and runs down the road to the Commanders to play for Quinn. Many of his Cowboys players lauded their professional and personal growth with Quinn calling defensive plays, which is a legitimate draw for free agents also looking to get paid. Queen is the first of many dominoes set to fall in Washington's rebuild under a new regime this offseason.