<span>The New Orleans Saints announced today that they have acquired middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma from the New York Jets in exchange for an undisclosed draft choice. The announcement of Vilma's acquisition was made by Saints Executive Vice President/General Manager Mickey Loomis.
Vilma, 25, was selected by the Jets with the 12th pick overall (first round) in the 2004 NFL Draft and earned the Associated Press NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year honor for his 118-tackle, three-interception, two-sack season. The 6-1, 230-pound graduate of the University of Miami has started every regular season game (55) but two that he has played over the past four seasons while with the Jets (2004-2007), as well as starting all three playoff games he appeared in while a member of the Jets.
"We are pleased to announce the acquisition of Jonathan," said Loomis. "He has been a player that has performed at a very high level quickly in his career and takes the game very seriously and is passionate about his profession. We spent time with him before the draft in 2004 and once again once the Jets made it known that he could pursue other opportunities. 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. We are aware and comfortable with his progress in returning from the injury that sidelined him for the second half of the 2007 season. 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."
"I am very happy to be joining the Saints' organization," Vilma said. "I enjoyed my four seasons with the Jets and thank them for the opportunities they gave me. 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 Bowl. People that I know have all told me that New Orleans is a great place to play, 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."
The native of Coral Gables, Fla. has accumulated 460 total tackles (312 solo, 148 assists), 14 passes defensed, six interceptions returned for 60 yards (including an interception returned for a touchdown in 2004), five forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries (16 return yards) and two-and-a-half sacks during regular season play. In three postseason contests, the former two-time Butkus Award finalist has started three games and registered 36 stops (20 solo), along with a sack during his career. Vilma has recorded 18 games with double-digit tackles, including a career-high 18 stops at Denver on Nov. 18, 2005.
Vilma became the first Jets defender since former LB Kyle Clifton (1984-1986) to begin his career with three consecutive 100-tackle seasons: posting seasonal tackle totals of 118 (2004), a career-high 187 (2005) and 116 (2006), before the 100-tackle streak was halted in 2007 after a knee injury ended his 2007 season after the first seven games.
As a collegian at Miami, Vilma played in 47 games for the Hurricanes, making 37 starts, and recorded 371 tackles (234 solo stops), 30 tackles for losses, seven fumble recoveries, four forced fumbles, 12 passes defensed and one interception. Along with his success on the field, Vilma was a three-time Academic All-Big East Conference honoree. He received a degree in finance from the University of Miami's School of Business Administration. Vilma, fluent in German and French, also is conversant in Spanish and cited his desire to learn the various foreign languages as preparation for a possible career in the medical field as a youngster.