Ravens' Kamalei Correa can go from draft disappointment to Zach Orr's replacement

Linebacker Kamalei Correa mostly stayed on the sideline during a disappointing rookie season. Tommy Gilligan/USA TODAY Sports

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Baltimore Ravens second-round pick Kamalei Correa should get an unexpected chance to redeem himself this season.

Zach Orr's surprising retirement has given Correa an opportunity to reclaim a starting inside linebacker job and move past a forgettable rookie season.

Correa began training camp running alongside C.J. Mosley, but he dropped below Orr on the depth chart by the first preseason game. As a result, he became the biggest disappointment of this year's draft class.

Correa's four tackles were the fewest of the 20 defenders selected in the second round who played this season. His 48 snaps ranked ninth among Baltimore's rookies (he missed four games due to injuries).

For Correa to earn that job, he has to show more physicality and a better feel for the defense. During training camp, linebackers coach Don "Wink" Martindale said Correa wasn't reacting 100 percent to everything.

The Ravens see Correa's future as an inside linebacker after projecting him on the outside as an edge rusher when they drafted him. Baltimore is banking on Correa to prove he was worth the No. 42 overall pick, especially when you consider the talent the Ravens passed on.

Middle linebacker Deion Jones, the potential defensive rookie of the year, was selected 10 spots after Correa. Jones made 108 tackles and returned two interceptions for touchdowns. Other prospects taken after Correa in the second round were: wide receiver Michael Thomas (whose 92 catches were the second-most by a rookie in NFL history) and two starting defensive tackles in A'Shawn Robinson and Jarran Reed.

If the Ravens hadn't traded back a second time in the second round, they could've selected pass-rusher Noah Spence (5.5 sacks as a rookie) or wide receiver Sterling Shepard (65 catches and eight touchdowns).

Barring injury, Correa would've been a backup in his second year. Orr, the team's leading tackler, and Mosley, a two-time Pro Bowl player, were both returning. Now, there is a question mark in one of the few spots where the team didn't have any. Orr, who retired because of a congenital spine and neck condition, set a high bar with his instincts, intelligence, aggressiveness on running downs and athleticism in pass defense.

The Ravens can draft an inside linebacker if a top-rated one falls to them in later rounds, but they might feel they're better served to use a pick for other areas of need. Baltimore has to figure out whether Correa is a potential starter or a longer-range prospect like Arthur Brown, another second-round pick who never panned out at inside linebacker.

Another possibility is to find a bargain in free agency after veterans are cut. D'Qwell Jackson, Rey Maualuga or Erin Henderson might become available over the next six weeks. One of them could give Baltimore an experienced fall-back option at a reduced price.

The Ravens could also move Albert McClellan from outside to inside linebacker, where he has started in the past, or take a longer look at Patrick Onwuasor, who started at inside linebacker in the regular-season finale.

Baltimore will ultimately go with the best player and fit to fill the void left by Orr. But, compared to the other choices, the Ravens have the most invested in Correa and would like to see a higher return than last season.