The Indianapolis Colts have already executed a big trade, shipping a star defender off the roster. But Bleacher Report’s Maurice Moton proposed one of Indianapolis’ next moves be a trade to bring in a bright, young linebacker.
Moton suggested the Colts acquire Baltimore Ravens linebacker Patrick Queen.
“The Indianapolis Colts lost linebacker Bobby Okereke to the New York Giants in free agency,” Moton wrote. “Last season, three-time All-Pro linebacker Shaquille Leonard missed 14 games with back, head and nose injuries.
“The Colts’ new regime retained defensive coordinator Gus Bradley. So, they don’t need wholesale changes on that side of the ball, but the club should add a young second-level defender to replace Okereke with Leonard coming off back surgery.”
Queen is still on his rookie contract, which makes him an enticing option from a salary perspective. If the Ravens elected to pick up his fifth-year option for 2024, he will make about $12.7 million next year.
The 24-year-old linebacker is set to have approximately a $3.9 million cap hit for 2023.
Moton proposed the Colts trading a middle-round pick for Queen.
Colts Need at Inside Linebacker
As Moton wrote, the Colts now have a hole at linebacker because Okereke left in free agency. He signed a four-year, $40 million contract to join the Giants.
The Colts still have Shaquille Leonard on the roster, but it’s not yet clear if he will return to his All-Pro form. Leonard played in just three games due to injuries during 2022 and has had multiple back surgeries over the past year.
General manager Chris Ballard did re-sign linebacker E.J. Speed to a two-year, $8 million deal. He started five games last year, which was a career high.
But the team must at least add depth in the middle of its linebacker core.
The Colts could make a big splash with a free agent signing such as Bobby Wagner, Zach Cunningham or Myles Jack. But they are all older and will be more expensive than Queen.
How Queen Fits With the Colts
Last year, Ballard could have pursued free agent quarterbacks, but he considered Matt Ryan a better enough option than the free agents that he gave up a third-round pick for the 2016 MVP.
The Colts appear to be in a similar situation with Queen and the 2023 free agent inside linebackers.
Although it could take a third or fourth-round pick, Queen is a better option than the free agents, making him worth the trade compensation. Queen has posted two campaigns with more than 100 combined tackles and another season with 98 combined tackles. He’s also recorded at least 9 tackles for loss in all three of his seasons.
Overall, Queen has posted 321 combined tackles, including 28 tackles for loss, 27 quarterback hits, 10 sacks, 9 pass defenses, 4 forced fumbles and 3 interceptions in 50 career starts. He also won’t turn 24 until August.
The reason he could be available through a trade this offseason is because the Ravens are struggling to agree on a contract extension with quarterback Lamar Jackson. If a deal is reached, the team may need to shed salary.
Furthermore, the Ravens signed fellow linebacker Roquan Smith to a five-year, $100 million extension after acquiring him through a trade with the Chicago Bears. It would be surprising to see Baltimore make the salary cap space for another inside linebacker.
Queen would be an affordable inside linebacker option for the Colts through 2024, making him, at the very least, a terrific short-term option.