During the 2016 offseason, The Baltimore Ravens decided to release Inside Linebacker Daryl Smith to free up $2.6 million in cap space. Smith was a solid linebacker in Jacksonville for 9 seasons and then signed with the Ravens in 2013 entering his 10th season and became a stable replacement after the Ravens were not able to re-sign Dannell Ellerbe. However, Smith was not the long-term option alongside C.J. Mosley, so the Ravens decided to move on from Smith and give Zachary Orr a shot at the position.
Orr was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2014 and mainly played as a special teams specialist for two seasons. In 2016, Orr finally got his chance and was able to play in 15 games as the starting weak-side linebacker totaling 132 tackles, five passes defensed, three interceptions, and a forced fumble that got him a spot on the second team All-Pro team. On December 30th, Orr was placed on injured reserve after suffering a neck injury in the pivotal week 16 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers but the Ravens and Orr did not expect what came next.
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In January of 2017, shocking news came across the wire that Orr was retiring from football due to a rare congenital spine condition that caused his C1 vertebra to not fully form, doctors concluded that if he continued to play, he would risk paralysis or even worse. With much personal heartbreak and disappointment from fans, Orr had to make the tough decision to leave football, especially after the tremendous season he just had. The Ravens were in an unfortunate spot after placing so much hope in the fact that another one of their undrafted free agents turned into a star contributor to their many great defensive teams over the seasons i.e. Bart Scott, Jameel McClain.
On June 28th, Orr made another surprise announcement stating that he is considering returning to the NFL after getting another opinion on the severity of his spinal injury. This came as great news to Ravens fans as maybe Orr could come back and take his rightful place next to Mosley but there is a catch. The Ravens released Orr and did not assign him to the reserve/retired list because like Orr, the Ravens believed his career was over based on his prognosis. So Orr is an unrestricted free agent and is allowed to sign with any team that will give him a chance to restart his NFL career and has already been invited to meet with the Detroit Lions on June 29th.
One would have to believe that the Ravens have been in contact with Orr since that announcement and that maybe Ozzie Newsome can convince Orr to come back to the defense. Ravens fans have to be biting their nails hoping one their home grown talents will be able to provide even more stability to an already overhauled defense.
The bet is though that the Ravens or any other team for that matter will not offer a long-term deal to Orr, especially after the Ravens took the risk on Dennis Pitta who was just released after suffering his third hip injury. What it will really come down to is if the Ravens feel that Kamalei Correa is ready to fill that role left by Orr’s injury. It’s not about if it would be fair to Correa if Orr came back to take the spot, it’s about the Ravens putting the best defensive unit on the field and if Orr is healthy, he would be welcomed back to the club with open arms.