The Saints and Jets consummated a trade on Friday involving middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma, a first round draft pick of the Jets in 2004.
According to updated reports, the Saints will send their 2008 fourth round draft pick to the Jets. Should Vilma meet certain playing time thresholds and sign a long-term contract, the Saints will additionally send a 2nd or 3rd round pick to the Jets in 2009. If that condition is met, the Jets will also send their 4th round pick to the Saints in 2009.
The playmaking middle linebacker collected an astounding 398 tackles in his first three seasons, including 173 tackles in 2005, the year he made the Pro Bowl. But since Eric Mangini's arrival and the defense's transition to the 3-4 defense, Vilma has struggled to make plays.
The 6'1, 230 pound linebacker is also coming off of major knee surgery on November 7. Vilma suffered a serious knee injury on October 21 and had before then played in every Jets game since he entered the league. The Jets have been remarkably tight-lipped about the exact nature of the injury.
"We are aware and comfortable with his progress in returning from the injury that sidelined him for the second half of the 2007 season," Saints GM Mickey Loomis said in a released statement. "We’ve consulted with our medical staff and spent time investigating the particulars surrounding the injury and we’re confident that he will return to the standard of play that he set through the first three-and-a-half years of his career.”
"The knee shouldn't be a problem long-term," Vilma told the media after the surgery. "I just have to take care of it. There was a dead piece of bone in my knee. In the Cincinnati game, it decided to fall [away]. Unfortunately, I've never had a season-ending injury before. I'm just glad the knee is taken care of."
The surgery was reportedly not the controversial and risky microfracture surgery.
Vilma passed his medical examinations in New Orleans, when he was in town this past Monday. Vilma met with Sean Payton and Mickey Loomis at the scouting combine.
"People that I know have all told me that New Orleans is a great place to play," Vilma said, "and the fans are passionate and rally around their team. I am eager to meet my new teammates and get involved with the community efforts that face New Orleans."
Vilma was teammates at Miami University with current Saints backups TE Buck Ortego and DT Orien Harris. He is a native of Coral Gables, Florida.
The cerebral linebackers is a tremendous athlete as well. Perhaps one of the smartest linebackers to ever wear the fleur di lis, Vilma is fluent in four languages, and earned a degree in finance and was a three-time Big East Academic All-American.
The Saints also re-signed MLB Marc Simoneau at the start of free agency, giving the team three experienced starting middle linebackers along with veteran Brian Simmons.
Vilma is expected to quickly ascend the leadership ladder in the Saints' locker room on defense, as he was a team captain at the University of Miami and in New York as a pro.
Vilma has one year left on his rookie contract and will only cost the Saints just under $1.1 million in 2008. Barring a new contract, Vilma will be an unrestricted free agent this time next year.