We've yet to make it to the training camp part of the offseason, let alone watch the ball fly as part of the mini pre-season all NFL teams will go through next month, but trade rumors and ideas are starting to pop up across the webspace.
The Baltimore Ravens, of course, are not immune to this type of talk. After a slow start of the offseason that was marked by Lamar Jackson and the franchise playing the waiting game before the quarterback inked the richest deal in the history of the league, things developed quickly in Maryland.
The Ravens went on to sign superstar Odell Beckham Jr., drafted a wideout labeled as the best among his classmates in Zay Flowers, had already brought a new OC in Todd Monken to call the plays, and didn't really lose that much talent to other teams during the spring and early summer.
That said, Baltimore had some things to do that they didn't accomplish, such as extending inside linebacker Patrick Queen's contract to a fifth year. The Ravens declined that option, and will instead force their brewing star and former first-round pick to play under the pressure of a contract year and risk losing him in free agency next March.
Liam Hanley of Clutch Points recently wrote a piece in which he highlighted three potential trade candidates part of the Ravens squad entering training camp. And of course, Queen made the cut.
"The Ravens declined to pick up Queen's fifth-year option, meaning the linebacker will be a free agent after the 2023 season. Queen has started every game for Baltimore since the franchise drafted him in the first round in 2020, but the team felt that the inside linebacker was not worth a $9 million pay raise ($3.8 million to $12.7 million) in the final year of his current deal."- Liam Hanley, Clutch Points
Queen's pick, honestly, was the most obvious to make here by Hanley. The three-year pro is entering a make-or-break season in 2023 in which he will need to prove his worth whether that leads to an extension of his contract with the Ravens next summer or a filled bag in free agency paid by whoever wants his services ahead of the 2024 campaign.
Baltimore must be cautious, but the truth is that the writing might have been on Queen's wall since the Ravens first traded for defensive maven Roquan Smith last November and then doubled down on adding warm bodies to the linebacker corps by drafting Trenton Simpson with a third-round pick a few months ago.
Two other players that might find themselves in similar situations are mentioned by Hanley in his trade-candidates article: rusher Justice Hill and receiver Devin Duverney.
Hill is one of a thousand running backs part of Baltimore's dominant backfield. Well, maybe not a thousand literally, but you get the point.
"Four different members of the Baltimore backfield rushed for at least 250 yards in 2022, and of those, Justice Hill was the only one not to start a game."- Liam Hanley, Clutch Points
Hill will need to fight Gus Edwards and J.K. Dobbins for touches, and he might actually lose the RB3 role to rookie Mitchell Keaton if the UDFA ends up making the Ravens roster with a strong summer camp.
Finally, Duvernay is currently one of many odd-men-out on the hyper-boosted wide-receiving corps of the Ravens entering 2023. To the additions of Zay Flowers and Odell Beckham Jr., you need to add the presence of Rashod Bateman, spring-superstar Nelson Agholor, and still-fighting-for-a-chance pass-catchers such as Laquon Treadwell and James Proche, just to name a couple.
"With the off-season additions of free agent Odell Beckham Jr. and rookie first-round pick Zay Flowers, plus competition from newly-signed veteran Nelson Agholor, Devin Duvernay enters training camp in 2023 as the fourth wideout on Baltimore’s depth chart."- Liam Hanley, Clutch Points
That's precisely what caught Hanley's attention and lead him to put Duvernay on the chopping block in his piece.
While moving Duvernay and Hill ahead of next season might not really be a necessity, it'd be nice to at least explore the returns they could fetch instead of losing them for nothing with a simple, old, plain cut, or demoting them to the practice squad, which they might actually just not be in the mood of accepting anyway.
Trading Patrick Queen, though, is an entirely different matter and one much more important for the future of the franchise that Baltimore must treat very carefully through the next few weeks and months until they come up with a final decision.
Not extending the fifth-year option on the rookie's deal doesn't mean Queen has underperformed, far from it, so the Ravens might actually pull off a great "hockey trade" in which both them and whoever trades for Queen end winner of the deal and add a valuable piece at a position of true need in order to improve their rosters.