It’s not too often that a 25-year-old player fresh off second-team All-Pro honors becomes available on the open market this late in the offseason.
To the delight of teams around the league, that’s what happened last week when Zach Orr announced he’s considering a return to the NFL just months after being forced to retire due to a spinal condition.
Given his 132-tackle, three-interception output for the Ravens last season, the market for Orr’s services heated up in a hurry. Baltimore didn’t extend him an offer as a restricted free agent because of his retirement, so he’s free to sign anywhere.
Here are five logical fits for Orr as he seeks an opportunity to restart his NFL career.
When he announced his attempted return to the NFL, Orr admitted that, although he’d weigh his options, rejoining the Ravens would be a “perfect scenario.” That about sums it up from the team’s perspective, too. After missing all of OTAs, a critical stretch for players settling in with new teams, going back to a defense he already knows would allow Orr to hit the ground running. He’d slide right back in alongside C.J. Mosley, giving Baltimore one of the league’s top linebacker tandems and rounding out a stellar defense.
The Colts have already met with Orr, so it would appear as though they’ve got an early advantage in terms of reeling him in. What better way to continue patching up an underwhelming defense than capitalizing on the sudden availability of a second-team All-Pro linebacker? Orr represents a major upgrade to a starting spot on the interior, and the presence of former Ravens linebackers coach Ted Monachino as defensive coordinator would help smooth his transition.
Adding a pair of defensive backs through the draft should help the Raiders finally turn things around on the defensive side. A better coverage unit on the back end, both at corner and safety, can finally provide a suitable complement to the pass-rush tandem of Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin up front. But the inside linebacker situation remains such a glaring weakness that it’s fair to wonder whether this unit is still another year away. Scooping up Orr would be a major step in speeding up its development.
The football world is well aware of how dynamic the Steelers’ offense can be. Boasting playmakers all over the field, this is the kind of high-powered scoring attack that can carry a team on a Super Bowl run by itself. Improving on the defensive side, of course, would provide that offense some room for error. While that first-round addition of T.J. Watt certainly helps, the free-agent departure of Lawrence Timmons left a significant void. Pittsburgh, a bitter AFC North rival of the Ravens, should know all about the upside Orr can bring to that spot.
New York passed up any and all opportunities to add to its linebacker corps in this year’s draft. Though many mocks had the Giants addressing one of their most obvious roster needs early on, this seems to be yet another case of a team just not valuing linebackers all that highly. And that’s fine. But even the Giants must be enticed by the potential value in picking up a young talent who would have been tendered with the highest possible restricted-free-agent tag were it not for his retirement.
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