Friday, February 29, 2008
Jets trade linebacker Jonathan Vilma to Saints for draft pick
NEW YORK -- The New York Jets traded linebacker Jonathan
Vilma to the New Orleans Saints on Friday for a fourth-round draft
pick in April.
If Vilma reaches certain playtime incentives and signs a
contract extension with New Orleans, New York would instead receive
a second- or third-round pick in 2009. The Jets would then give the
Saints their fourth-round pick next year.
Vilma, who missed the last nine weeks of last season because of
an injured right knee, had his production decline the last two
years after coach Eric Mangini took over and installed a 3-4
defensive scheme. With rookie David Harris' emergence as a
playmaker at inside linebacker, Vilma became expendable.
"I enjoyed my four seasons with the Jets and thank them for the
opportunities they gave me," Vilma said in a statement. "But this
represents a new chapter in my football career and in my life and I
am truly excited and fortunate to be joining a team that just a
little over a year ago was one win away from appearing in the Super
Vilma, who will be 26 in April, had 118 tackles after being the
No. 12 overall pick out of Miami in 2004 and being named defensive
rookie of the year. He led the NFL the following season with 187
tackles, earning a Pro Bowl selection while establishing himself as
one of the league's top young middle linebackers.
That changed in 2006, when the Jets switched defenses upon
Mangini's arrival from New England and Vilma had just 116 tackles.
He played in seven games last season before injuring his knee at
Cincinnati and had 39 tackles. Meanwhile, Harris appeared to be the
perfect fit for the defense, racking up a team-leading 117 tackles,
including 20 in Week 9 against Washington.
Vilma, a two-time defensive captain, was placed on injured
reserve on Oct. 27. He would have been a free agent after next
season, and reportedly was given permission to explore trade
options with other teams.
He should become an immediate starter at middle linebacker as
the Saints seek to solidify a defense that ranked 26th in the
league last season after giving up an average of 348 yards per
game. Unlike the Jets, the Saints play a 4-3 defense.
Mark Simoneau started at middle linebacker last season in New
Orleans, flanked by Scott Fujita on the strong side and Scott
Shanle on the weak side. Simoneau re-signed with the Saints on
"In talking with people that are familiar with him, it is clear
that he is serious and passionate about the game, that winning is
something that is extremely important to him and he has leadership
skills that he backs up with his play on the field," Saints
general manager Mickey Loomis said. "We are aware and comfortable
with his progress in returning from the injury that sidelined him
for the second half of the 2007 season."
Vilma recently wrote on his Web site that his knee was "doing
fine" and that he had started jogging, but hadn't done any
"We've consulted with our medical staff and spent time
investigating the particulars surrounding the injury," Loomis
said. "We're confident that he will return to the standard of play
that he set through the first 3½ years of his career."
During his four seasons with the Jets, Vilma started 53 of 55
games he played and had 460 tackles, 2½ sacks, three fumble
recoveries, five forced fumbles and 14 passes defensed.
It was a busy day for the Jets, who earlier made another change
to their defense by acquiring former Pro Bowl defensive tackle Kris
Jenkins from Carolina for third- and fifth-round picks.
The Jets also signed defensive tackle Sione Pouha to a
three-year contract extension. Pouha, who showed marked improvement
last season after coming back from a knee injury the previous year,
had one year remaining on his rookie contract.
AP Sports Writer Brett Martel in New Orleans contributed to this