Former Ravens line backer Zach Orr had retired. In a January press conference, Orr announced that he had a congenital spinal cord issue from birth, and that he would be unable to play football again because of it. Wednesday morning on NFL Network’s Good Morning Football however, Orr announced that he would be returning to the NFL after receiving positive messages from spine specialists from Stanford Emery hospital,
According to those doctors, Orr is at no more risk than any other player in the league currently.
The whole situation is odd, and Orr’s status as a unrestricted free agent makes it weirder. Orr never officially retired because he was holding out hope that he would be able to play again. He was to be a restricted free agent, however the Ravens did not tender him since they did not expect him to return. The time to tender has passed, and now Orr finds himself able to choose a new home freely.
Orr has said publicly that Baltimore is the perfect situation for him and it is where he would like to go, but he has visits lined up with teams starting with the Detroit Lions first on Thursday. Baltimore added two high profile line backers in Ryan Anderson and Tyus Bowser in the draft, so Orr returning may not be realistic for either side.
The Zach Orr sweepstakes will likely come down to who is the most confident that this spine issue is a non-issue. Orr without the bizarre retirement/return would command top non-rush linebacker money, somewhere in the range of 7-10 million a year. He had 130 tackles and 3 picks in 2016. Given his situation however, I would be a bit surprised to see teams pay that much, and they’ll likely get opinions from their own doctors when he visits.
What would this mean for the Lions if Orr signs?
Orr would step in immediately at one of the two starting line backer spots. The Lions are in nickel about 70% of the time, so it would likely be him and Jarrad Davis manning up those spots. Whether he would play inside or outside would remain to be seen. Davis has been undoubtebly named the middle linebacker for the Detroit Lions since his name was called April 27th, and Tahir was to be bumped outside. An Orr signing would also likely spell the end of Tahir Whitehead’s Detroit Lions career. He is due three million in guarantees if he makes the roster so the Lions may look to trade him to get a late round draft pick.
Much like when T.J. Lang was going from team to team, Lions fans will be holding their breath until news on where Orr lands hits. Orr would undoubtedly be a big addition to the team, and would make the Lions defense get back to a top one in the league.