Zachary Orr’s Potential Impact on the Detroit Lions

It’s not often a young, second-team All-Pro becomes available this late in the offseason. However, that is the case with former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Zachary Orr.

He was slated to be a restricted free agent, but due to a potentially career-threatening congenital defect in his spine, Orr decided to retire at the young age of 24 this past January. Since the North Texas product planned to retire, the Ravens did not tender him. In a recent turn of events, Orr decided he would like to return to the game and is now an unrestricted free agent due to the Ravens not placing the designated tender.

The Detroit Lions have emerged as front runners for Orr’s services. His first visit since his return was in Detroit.

The 2014 UDFA would fill a massive hole in Teryl Austin‘s defense after running out personnel such as Thurston Armbrister in 2016.  Coming off a 132 tackle and three interception season, Orr would provide an element the Detroit defense has not had since DeAndre Levy was healthy–a dynamic playmaker.

It’s hard to believe, but the Lions linebacking core did not account for a single interception, sack or forced fumble last year.

Orr may not contribute much of a pass rush boost, but he would bring in much-needed quickness in the middle of the field.

In addition to his game-speed, he also excels in pass coverage which was another big issue for Lions’ linebackers in 2016. The Lions “best” linebacker last year, Tahir Whitehead, surrendered a whopping 64 receptions, more than any linebacker in the NFL. Quarterbacks completed 76.2 percent of their throws in his direction. Pro Football Focus was not kind in grading Whitehead either, as they ranked him 86th out of 87 qualifying candidates.

Needless to say, Orr would be a huge upgrade in regards to the pass defense.

GM Bob Quinn already addressed linebacker in the draft by acquiring MLB Jarrad Davis —who could also be considered a coverage linebacker. Adding Orr to complement him would arguably be the biggest free agent acquisition made by any team in the NFL this offseason. It’s fair to assume that Davis would remain at the MIKE backer spot which would push Orr over to the WILL or weakside. Whitehead won’t go down without a fight, but his more natural position is the third LB, also known as the SAM.

Of course, you can never take any spine injury lightly but if he is cleared to play by the Lions medical staff, it would be a move that could make an enormous impact for the Detroit Lions in 2017.

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