While many have criticized Baltimore Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome for his recent drafts, he is still really good at producing unknown gems during the undrafted free agency process. Names like Marques Douglas, Bart Scott, Justin Tucker, Dannell Ellerbe, Jameel McClain and even the 2013 version of Marlon Brown comes to mind. Ozzie, yet again, found another gem in the form of 2016 undrafted free agent Michael Pierce. Now, it looks like a 2014 undrafted free agent out of the University of North Texas is receiving a reward in the form of a new contract for his hard-working efforts.
On Thursday evening, in the wake of the Ravens surprise announcement of an 11 a.m. Friday press conference, CBS Sports Jason La Canfora reported the Ravens have made "considerable progress" with undrafted inside linebacker Zachary Orr. Orr is scheduled to be a restricted free agent this offseason.
In Orr's first season with the team, he earned his way on the 53-man roster and performed mostly on special teams. In 2015, Orr received more snaps on passing downs, replacing the veteran starter Daryl Smith. After the season and with Daryl Smith released, Orr received his opportunity to start next to C.J. Mosley for the 2016 season. In a sense, the Ravens trusted the young undrafted free agent with this test and it was a risk. However, Orr showed it was a risk worth taking and made the most of his opportunity.
In 2016, Orr recorded five passes defensed, three interceptions and a forced fumble. He recorded more tackles than Mosley with 132, which lead the team for the season. He played in 15 games and was placed on injured reserve with a neck injury before the season finale with the Cincinnati Bengals. Orr and Mosley proved to be one of the best inside linebacker tandems in the NFL in 2016, as Orr and Mosley both were named as second team All-Pro linebackers.
If the Ravens can get a deal done with Orr, they can focus their attention on their other free agents like Rick Wagner, Kyle Juszczyk or Brandon Williams. Another player they can focus on locking up is the man that lines up next to Orr, C.J. Mosley. Mosley is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent after the 2018 season. His rookie deal is just like every deal for a first round pick: a four-year deal with the fifth year club option. The Ravens will surely pick up the option after next season, but it’s ideal for the team to lock him up, whether it's this offseason or next. Securing the Orr & Mosley tandem as the gatekeepers in the middle creates only positives, at least for the Ravens.
With all the speculation coming about thanks to the announcement of the Friday morning press conference, it could all just be the announcement of the team retaining one of their own and one of their brightest young players on their defense. Zachary Orr has gone from a guy who never heard his name called during the 2015 draft, to starting at inside linebacker and leading the NFL's 7th ranked defense in tackles. Orr is a great underdog story, and the story is looking like it will continue in Baltimore.