The Saints sent their first official contract offer as soon as free agency opened late Thursday night, a negotiations with free agent Jonathan Vilma were off and running. Roughly 18 hours later, news broke and was shortly confirmed that the Saints had accomplished their top goal of the 2009 offseason.
Jonathan Vilma will return to the Saints.
Acquired for a pair of picks, one in the last draft and one in this draft, Vilma couldn't be re-signed by the Saints because of a clause in the trade that increased the price if Vilma was re-signed before free agency.
So the Saints nervously waited through February, preparing to strike quickly. No handshake deal was ever acknowledged by the Saints or Vilma's camp.
The new contract is a five year, $34 million deal that does not appear to be backloaded; initial figures see only $11 million of the total contract value in the final two seasons.
Vilma said in an interview with the Times-Picayune that the Saints' offer was "fair" and "reasonable", and said he agreed in principle to the deal at 6:30am.
Vilma, who will be 28 this year, started all 16 games and played every defensive snap for the Saints in 2008, triggering a clause in his trade deal that increased the compensation to the Jets from a fourth round to a third round pick in 2009, but also sends the Jets' fourth round pick to New Orleans in 2009. Vilma recorded 132 tackles, two forced fumbles, a sack and a game-winning interception in London.
Meanwhile, news reports indicated that during the day that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and their nearly $60 million in cap space were preparing a knock-out punch offer for Vilma. Agent Mitch Frankel fielded called through the day and Vilma said in an interview with neworleanssaints.com that while he was looking to make a move, he admitted it was a possibility. The NFL Network broke the news of his signing that afternoon.
The announcement comes days after charges of resisting arrest and obstruction were dropped against Vilma from an incident in Miami before the Superbowl.