<span style="">The New Orleans Saints have agreed to terms with LB Jonathan Vilma on a five-year contract, it was announced today by Executive Vice President/General Manager Mickey Loomis. Vilma led the Saints with 151 tackles and three forced fumbles in 2008 and added a pair of fumble recoveries, a sack and an interception.
"We made re-signing Jonathan our top priority, and this is an important first step as we prepare for the 2009 season," said Loomis. "Jonathan proved he could come back from his injury and play at a high level and we expect the same or better from him starting this season."
Vilma was acquired by New Orleans in a trade with the New York Jets in February of 2008. Last season he led or shared the team lead in stops in 10 contests – recording double-digit tackle totals in eight games – and turned in a handful of memorable performances. Vilma had a 17-tackle day at Washington, where he also deflected a pair of passes. At Tampa Bay, he posted seven stops, a career-high two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and a sack.
"Jonathan is a true impact player on defense and one of our leaders," said Head Coach Sean Payton. "He is consistent, he never comes off the field, and we rely on him to make plays. He proved to be everything we expected when we made the trade for him last year, and having him agree to terms today is a key factor heading into this season."
The 2004 Defensive Rookie of the Year with the Jets after being selected 12th overall out of the University of Miami, Vilma was voted to the Pro Bowl in 2005 when he led the league with 187 tackles. Over his career, he has notched 611 stops (412 solo), 3.5 sacks, seven interceptions, eight forced fumbles and six fumble recoveries.
Entering his sixth season, Vilma has started 69 of 71 contests in his career, including all 16 last year for the Saints.
He has also been known as one of the NFL's most community-minded players during his tenure in the league. Vilma served as a spokesman for the NFL's Lend A Hand campaign, was a board member of the National Football Foundation's "Play It Smart" Program and has given numerous talks in schools about success on the field and in the classroom.
NOTES: The team also announced the free agent visit of CB Ronald Bartell. THE 6-1, 209-pound CB recently completed his fourth seasons with the St. Louis Rams. Bartell has appeared in 58 regular season games (36 starts) and registered 183 tackles, eight interceptions for 102 yards and two sacks. In 2008 he started all 16 games for the Rams and recorded 57 tackles and tied his career-high in interceptions (three), as well as making one sack. Over the course of his young career, Bartell has recorded 35 passes defensed, including a career-high 19 in 2008.