Zachary Orr’s retirement brings more than a few questions to the table for the Baltimore Ravens this upcoming offseason.
Who will start next to C.J. Mosley? Does the Front Office trust that Kamalei Correa can step into the starting role? Where does this put inside linebacker as a draft board priority? Will Baltimore look for a veteran to thrust into the role?
Orr’s departure leaves behind a big impact, there is no doubting that. Baltimore shouldn’t simply be looking for someone who can replace Orr, but someone who can complement Mosley’s strengths as an inside linebacker.
Who will start next to Mosley? That answer is nowhere in sight, yet. It could very well be Correa, a rookie, or a veteran free-agent. The answer will be much more clear as free agency and the draft come and go.
Does the Front Office trust that Correa can step into the starting role? That answer isn’t known, at least publicly, just yet. Many critics are already comparing Correa to recent second-round draft pick Arthur Brown. Brown was viewed as a future building block when he was drafted. He lasted only three years in Baltimore before being cut. Brown rarely saw the field, even on special teams. That’s where Correa has a slight edge over Brown at this point in his career.
Correa’s season was riddled with injuries, but unlike Brown, he did make a presence on the special team’s units flagging down kick returns. Starting on special teams goes a long way to seeing the field on a Baltimore defense. *Hint, hint* Zachary Orr.
Just because he was on the field for special teams in no way means Correa is ready to see the field, but it is far too early to give up on this second-rounder.
How far up did Orr’s retirement shove inside linebacker on Baltimore’s draft priority list? It pushed it into early consideration, for sure, but there are still pressing needs all along this team. A pass rusher, a complement to Jimmy Smith, and offensive line help should still hold more weight in the draft, unless a star ILB is there for the taking.
Rueben Foster from Alabama is a common consensus for the top inside linebacker in this draft. It is well known how much Ozzie Newsome loves his Alabama boys. Although, not many draft analysts have Foster dropping past the top-10 at this point.
Lastly, are there any veterans in free agency that will step in and complement Mosley right away? The short answer is yes. But, will Baltimore be able to retain any of their top options? The Front Office will certainly want to take a swing on resigning both Brandon Williams and Ricky Wagner, who will both command hefty contracts. How much would they be willing to spend on a veteran inside linebacker?
The top options on free agency, in my opinion, so far (there are always unexpected cap casualties), are Lawrence Timmons, Malcolm Smith, and Manti Te’o. Timmons should be high on Pittsburgh’s priority list, having been a mainstay in the middle of Mike Tomlin’s defense for years now. He will also command the biggest contract of any free-agent inside linebacker in this year’s crop.
Smith, a former Super Bowl MVP, had a productive year in Oakland, putting up somewhat similar-yet-lesser stats to Orr. The question with him is whether Baltimore would settle for him or go with someone with more potential.
Te’o is an interesting prospect, and has yet to show his full potential. He was a first-round talent coming out of Notre Dame just four years ago, but fell due to a pre-draft catfish scandal. He’s coming off an injury in a contract year, so who knows what next season will bring for him.
There are many different routes that Baltimore can go in finding their next starting linebacker. Luckily for the team, they have plenty of time to figure out an answer.