The Cleveland Browns have fielded a championship-level defense this season, but maintaining the status it has attained is going to require continuous work.
Bleacher Report’s NFL Staff took a look ahead at what the Browns will need on that side of the ball next offseason and came to the conclusion that Cleveland should pursue Baltimore Ravens linebacker Patrick Queen.
“This Browns front office has not generally prioritized off-ball linebacker, but the same could have been said for defensive tackle last season. That didn’t stop them from signing Dalvin Tomlinson to a competitive contract,” BR wrote. “With Anthony Walker Jr. and Sione Takitaki set to hit free agency in the offseason, they might be interested in trying to sign Patrick Queen away from Baltimore. Queen makes enough splash plays to justify a bump in salary.”
Patrick Queen Can Offer Browns Stability at Crucial Position
The Ravens selected Queen out of LSU with the No. 28 overall pick in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft.
Queen is playing in the fourth season of his four-year, $12.2 million rookie contract. Baltimore did not exercise its $12.7 million fifth-year option on the linebacker’s deal for 2024, which means he will hit free agency in March.
A skeptic might wonder why the Browns should aggressively pursue a player Baltimore has chosen not to invest in further, at least to this point. First, the Ravens’ plan may be to attempt to sign Queen in free agency to secure his services at a more reasonable number.
Secondly, the Browns could potentially lose two of their starting linebackers next offseason in Takitaki and Walker. The defense is the best in the NFL through nine weeks and must secure the second level if it hopes to repeat that performance in 2024.
That kind of effort and success could prove necessary for the Browns to remain a Super Bowl-relevant outfit as the offense continues to struggle, especially at quarterback. Deshaun Watson’s salary cap number will jump to $64 million next season and remain there for three years until his fully-guaranteed $230 million contract is up.
Cleveland must spend on the defensive side of the football to remain relevant, though the team must spend smart. Spotrac projects Queen’s market value at $17 million per season over a new four year deal, which is a figure the Browns will have to undercut significantly to make him a viable free agent option.
Spotrac projects Cleveland is currently on pace to begin the offseason with -$7.3 million in salary cap space, though further moves to reduce that figure are coming.
Patrick Queen Has History as Game-Changing Playmaker with Ravens
Queen has been a full-time starter since entering the league in 2020 and has yet to miss a regular season contest 59 games into his career.
Through nine weeks of play, Pro Football Focus ranks Queen the 33rd-best linebacker in the NFL out of 81 players who have seen enough snaps to qualify at the position. He is above-average as a pass-rusher and run defender based on PFF’s analytics and is also moderately good in coverage.
Queen has tallied 396 total tackles, including 35 tackles for loss, 41 pressures, 32 QB hits, 13.5 sacks, 12 pass breakups, 4 forced fumbles, 3 interceptions and 1 defensive touchdown over the course of his career, according to Pro Football Reference.