The Ravens went into the offseason thinking they were set at inside linebacker.
With two-time Pro Bowler C.J. Mosley playing alongside rising star Zachary Orr, the Ravens had one of the league's best linebacker tandems.
But then came the shocking news that Orr would have to retire after just three NFL seasons because of a previously undiscovered congenital neck/spine condition. Now the Ravens suddenly have a big hole in the middle of their defense.
"When you talk about replacing him, I think that's an unfair way to look at it," Linebackers Coach Don Martindale said. "It's going to be unfair for whoever walks in, whether [the media] is interviewing him, you're going to say, 'That's no Zach Orr.' If I see that a play where a guy is a step slow, then it's 'That's no Zach Orr.' That's not a way to coach. We know how special the guy that he is, and we'll see what happens."
The Ravens have some in-house candidates to slide into Orr's weak-side linebacker spot, particularly last year's second-round pick Kamalei Correa. He competed for the starting job last season before Orr won it in training camp.
Correa worked at both inside and outside linebacker last year, but the Ravens could opt to make him a more permanent inside linebacker after Orr's retirement.
Last year's No. 42-overall pick was mostly a special teamer in his rookie season, playing in nine games and logging four tackles and a pass defensed. He ended the season on injured reserve because of a rib injury.
Another option is Patrick Onwuasor, who actually followed Orr's path by making the team as an undrafted free agent. The Portland State product was one of Baltimore's top special teamers, and he got the starting linebacker job in Week 17 when Orr was sidelined.
Onwuasor registered 21 tackles and a forced fumble in his rookie campaign.
The Ravens could also move veteran linebacker Albert McClellan back inside. He's played inside and outside throughout his career, and he started 11 games at outside linebacker last season. McClellan, who is known a physical run stuffer, registered 55 tackles and a sack last year. He's an experienced player who knows Baltimore's defense.
The Ravens are also likely to address the spot in either free agency or the draft. Whoever ends up getting the starting job next year, the Ravens know it will be tough to live up to what Orr accomplished in his one season as a starter.
"He's an amazing individual," Martindale said. "And I'm not just talking about the player, I'm talking about the person. That's what's going to be missed the most."