Baltimore Ravens

Inside linebacker Zachary Orr's retirement leaves Ravens with another personnel hole to fill

The prevailing thought among the Ravens players, coaches and front-office executives who attended inside linebacker Zachary Orr's news conference, where he announced he will retire from football because of a significant spinal cord condition, was the health and well-being of a 24-year-old who still has a long and productive life ahead of him.

But from a football perspective, Orr's decision does add another position of need to a team that already has a long list of concerns in the offseason.


Many experts agree that the Ravens lack talent and/or depth at center, cornerback, outside linebacker, safety and wide receiver. Inside linebacker was considered to be stabilized with Orr and C.J. Mosley as starters.

So what are the organization's options in terms of replacing Orr? Patrick Onwuasor started in Orr's place in the team's 27-10 loss at the Cincinnati Bengals on Jan. 1 in the season finale, but the undrafted free agent who recently completed his rookie campaign may still be a little too raw.


Albert McClellan could move to inside linebacker, a position he has played in the past. But McClellan recorded a career-high 55 tackles in 11 starts at outside linebacker this past fall. If the team elects to release Elvis Dumervil to recoup some money against the salary cap, McClellan might be the obvious choice to remain there until Za'Darius Smith or Matthew Judon can prove he is ready to be an every-down player.

Kamalei Correa could also play inside linebacker, but he was being groomed at outside linebacker before he was placed on injured reserve on Dec. 24 because of a rib injury.

If the franchise seeks to shore up the position via free agency, Dont'a Hightower of the New England Patriots is regarded as the best option. But his price tag could be too high for the Ravens' liking.

The pool of unrestricted free-agent inside linebackers also includes Lawrence Timmons of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Malcolm Smith of the Oakland Raiders, Keenan Robinson of the New York Giants, and Zach Brown of the Buffalo Bills.

The team could aim for one in the 2017 NFL Draft. Reuben Foster of Alabama is rated as the top prospect, but is also expected to be off the board before the Ravens' first-round pick at No. 16. The gap between Foster and peers like Zach Cunningham of Vanderbilt, Jarrad Davis of Florida, Raekwon McMillan of Ohio State, and Ben Boulware of Clemson is significant.

So the Ravens have a variety of options when it comes to replacing Orr at inside linebacker. Unfortunately, the status quo is no longer one of them.