Ravens 'Very Confident' Kamalei Correa Can Win Linebacker Job Next To C.J. Mosley

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The Ravens weren't expecting to have to fill a hole at the weak-side inside linebacker spot this offseason, but that's the situation they find themselves in after the sudden retirement of last year's leading tackler, Zachary Orr.

The good news is front-office executives may not have to spend big money or more draft currency to address the need. They could have the answer right in front of them in last year's second-round draft pick, Kamalei Correa.

Is he the favorite to start next to Pro Bowler C.J. Mosley in the middle of the defense?

"We don't handicap it. So to say one guy is the favorite or not, it's up to them to win the job," Head Coach John Harbaugh said at the NFL league meetings Tuesday.

"But I'm very confident that Kamalei Correa can win the Will linebacker job. If someone else comes in and plays better than him and wins the job, then I'm happy because that guy's playing great. But I wouldn't rule out Kamalei Correa."

Another in-house candidate who will compete with Correa is Patrick Onwuasor, who was an undrafted rookie like Orr. The Portland State product got the starting nod in Week 17 when Orr was sidelined and Correa was on injured reserve (ribs).

The Ravens liked Correa coming out of Boise State and he started out strong, but began to fade during the preseason. Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees took the blame for that regression, saying he put Correa in too many roles right out of the gate. During training camp, Pees played the rookie in a combination of outside and inside linebacker roles.

Correa played in nine games last season, but only sparingly on defense, making four tackles and one pass defense. He was mostly used on special teams.

With more time in the Ravens' defensive system, however, he could be ready for the next step.

"He's had a year under his belt now," Harbaugh said. "He's a talented guy; he loves football. Nobody wants to do well more than him. I can't wait to see him come back and see what shape he's in. He's out there in Hawaii and he's training and we'll know a lot by what kind of shape he comes back in."

Correa isn't the only young developing player Baltimore plans to rely on more next season.

Harbaugh also named pass rushers Matt Judon (fifth round, 2016), Za'Darius Smith (fourth round, 2015) and defensive end Bronson Kaufusi (third round, 2016). Kaufusi has been flying under the media's radar after missing his entire rookie season with an ankle injury.

The Ravens have earned a reputation for building the foundation of the team through the draft, and have seen late-round picks or undrafted rookies develop into starters over the years. Harbaugh takes great pride in that history.

"We develop players I'd say as good, or better, than anybody in the history of the National Football League," he said. "We work at it. We care about it. It's important to us. And our guys have played really well for us. … And they haven't always gone on to play really well elsewhere."

Former players developed by the Ravens who didn't perform as well outside of Baltimore include defensive lineman Arthur Jones (Indianapolis Colts), linebacker Dannell Ellerbe (Miami Dolphins), linebacker Paul Kruger (Cleveland Browns) and wide receiver Torrey Smith (San Francisco 49ers).             

Now, the next generation of draft picks needs to show the same developmental improvements, and Harbaugh said Correa is the first person who comes to mind on that list.

"We expect them to step up," Harbaugh said.

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