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Could the Ravens afford to move on from Anthony Levine this year?

Seattle Seahawks v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Baltimore safety Anthony Levine Sr. is regarded as one of the most underappreciated, yet valuable players for the Ravens. Levine’s versatility has made him a key component to the defense in recent years, with the ability to play safety, corner and even inside linebacker. Not to mention the outstanding contributions and leadership Levine brings to special teams. However, at 31-years old and returning from an undisclosed foot surgery, could Baltimore look to replace Levine?

The Ravens have several recently drafted players who could help fill Levine’s role on both special teams and defense. The first player that comes to mind is second-year safety Chuck Clark. A sixth-round pick out of Virginia Tech in 2017, Clark rarely saw the field on defense early in his rookie year, rather, the majority of his playing time was spent on special teams. When Clark did play on defense late in the season, he was often used as an extra defensive back in certain packages for passing downs, which is what Levine is primarily deployed as.

Clark has received praise this offseason, with new Defensive Coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale calling him “one of the standouts of the spring.” Clark has seen snaps at safety, corner and even inside linebacker in the dime package so far this spring. Martindale added, “We can play Chuck anywhere. So you’re just going to continue to see his role expand.” As a rookie, Clark totaled 12 tackles and and two passes defensed. Clark is the obvious front-runner to replace Levine when his time with Baltimore comes to a close.

A similar player to Clark who could fit Levine’s role is rookie safety DeShon Elliott. Like Clark, Elliott was selected in the sixth round by the Ravens. Elliott received some second-to-third round hype before the draft, so it should go without saying that he has been dubbed a “steal” for Baltimore by many. Elliott played all over the field in college at Texas, where he was named a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award in 2017, an honor for the nation’s top defensive back. Last year as a junior, he recorded 63 total tackles, 1.5 sacks, 9 defensed passes, three forced fumbles including one recovery, six interceptions and two touchdowns. Elliott has a nose for the football and a knack for making plays.

The last candidate to replace Levine on defense is rookie linebacker Kenny Young. Young has been praised for his ability to cover tight ends and running backs in the passing game, which is something Baltimore has lacked from it’s inside linebackers recently. Instead of swapping a linebacker for another defensive back in the dime package, the Ravens could instead use Kenny Young in some passing situations. This benefits Baltimore since having two inside linebackers on the field will help in case of a surprise run play. Young must work on his run defense, but the Ravens have a great track record of developing linebackers.

Baltimore recently re-signed Levine to a three-year deal worth up to $4.2 million. According to Spotrac, His cap hit for 2018 is $1,533,333 with $266,667 in dead money if he were to be cut. This means the Ravens would save $1,266,666 if they released Levine this summer. It’s not a significant savings, but with the uncertainty regarding the foot injury he suffered in Week 17 against the Bengals last year, which recently required surgery, and the surplus of young talent at his position on the roster, Baltimore could very well decide to move on from Levine in 2018. The main question is, could they replace his leadership? Only time will tell.