Could Jonathan Vilma Be Heir To Ray Lewis?

ST. LOUIS, MO - OCTOBER 30: Steven Jackson #39 of the St. Louis Rams is tackled in the backfield byJonathan Vilma #51 of the New Orleans Saints at the Edward Jones Dome on October 30, 2011 in St. Louis, Missouri. The Rams beat the Saints 31-21. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

According to ProFootballTalk.com, the New Orleans Saints might be releasing ILB Jonathan Vilma. Vilma is 30 years old and coming off of a knee injury, but more importantly, he is due $5.5 million in 2012 and has been implicated in the Saints' 'Bounty-Gate' scandal offering teammates cash for taking out opposing players.

However, he is a University of Miami guy and plays in the same style that his predecessor at the "U" does, Ray Lewis. With the other starting inside linebacker from 2011 possibly leaving (Jameel McClain), the Ravens are currently looking at the under-achieving Dannell Ellerbe or perhaps another free agent or draft pick starting next to Lewis in 2012. At the same time, the team is fully aware that each season could easily be Ray Lewis' last and his replacement must be part of their mind-set and search.

If Vilma is healthy and his punishment for 'Bounty-Gate' is reasonable, to consider him an option now and a leader in the middle of this defense for the next 4-5 years might be a good idea for the team to wait to see how the drama in New Orleans unfolds.

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