Jonathan Vilma

Jonathan Vilma Announces Retirement

Former Jets/Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma has announced his retirement from the NFL, according to a statement issued by the Saints. Vilma, 33, is set to be honored later today before New Orleans’ game against Carolina.Jonathan Vilma

“I’m excited to be retiring from my playing career as a member of the New Orleans Saints,” said Vilma. “I loved everything about being a Saint and was fortunate to be surrounded by so many outstanding coaches and teammates for six years and to be a part of the team that won Super Bowl XLIV. I would also like to thank our fans for making my playing career in New Orleans so memorable. I will never forget the amazing fans here and the experiences we shared together.”

Vilma, a first-round draft pick in 2004, played four seasons with New York before heading to the Saints in a 2008 trade. The former Miami Hurricane would spend the next six seasons in New Orleans, starting starting 68 games during that time. Injuries sapped Vilma’s ability during the 2013 season, and though he drew free agent interest during the summer of 2014, he never latched on with another club. The three-time Pro Bowler finishes his career with more than 600 tackles, 10.5 sacks, and 12 interceptions.

Off the field, Vilma was just as productive, starting the Jonathan Vilma foundation in 2010 to help victims from the devastating 2010 Haitian earthquake. Vilma, whose parents both hail from Haiti, helped raise more than $400K, and was a key figure in establishing three new charter schools in his parents’ native country. He was named the Saints’ 2010 “Man of the Year.”

“Jonathan Vilma is one of the most talented, dedicated and determined players that I have had the pleasure to coach,” said said Saints head coach Sean Payton. “Whether it was on the practice field, in the meeting room or in the weight room, Jonathan’s leadership, preparation and effort were second to none. He was an enormous asset to our team and was an integral part of us winning a Super Bowl.”

Image courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Free Agent Stock Watch: Jonathan Vilma

As Lindsay H. Jones of USA Today noted last month, the 2014 offseason has not been kind to linebackers. Sean Lee, Kiko Alonso, Sean Weatherspoon, Daryl Washington, and Robert Mathis are among the LBs who have been lost to either injury or suspension. While allowing that linebacker is one of football’s most fungible positions (excluding 3-4 outside pass-rushers), teams still need to deploy competent defensive players in the middle of the field. As training camp gets underway, more LBs will inevitably suffer injuries, forcing teams to inquire on available free agents. Among defensive players, veteran inside ‘backer Jonathan Vilma is perhaps the most intriguing name who is still out of a job.Jonathan Vilma

Vilma, 32, entered the league with the Jets in 2004 as the 12th overall pick out of Miami. After four largely successful seasons in New York, during which he was selected Defensive Rookie of the Year and was named to the Pro Bowl, he was traded to the Saints. During seven years with New Orleans, Vilma was again named a Pro Bowler (twice) and won a Super Bowl. He was, however, engaged in the Saints’ “bounty scandal”; after a suspension, appeals, and courtroom action, Vilma was somewhat exonerated, but only played in 11 games in 2012. He underwent a knee scope before the 2013 season, and ultimately made it on the field for just 12 defensive snaps. Vilma was not re-signed by New Orleans in March 2014.

Besides Vilma’s play, the obvious concern for teams would be his health. He was originally placed on the injured reserve/designated for return list following his knee injury last summer. When he returned midseason, he barely lasted a series’ worth of snaps before being placed back on I.R. The immediacy with which the Saints’ medical staff determined Vilma was unfit to play is certainly concerning, especially for a 32-year-old. However, Ian Rapoport of reported on June 18 that Vilma’s knee received a “thumbs-up” medically, so perhaps his injury concerns are lessened for the time being.

Many teams could use help at linebacker, but it’s always important to consider scheme fit when discussing LBs. When Vilma was traded by the Jets, the prevailing opinion around the league was that he was a poor match for Eric Mangini’s 3-4 look. The Saints mixed in some 3-4 fronts while Gregg Williams was the defensive coordinator, and Vilma did struggle — during Williams’ final two seasons in New Orleans, Vilma ranked as the worst and third-worst LB in the league, per Pro Football Focus (subscription required). At 230 pounds, Vilma is generally considered too small to flourish as a 3-4 “Mike” linebacker. However, when the Saints brought in Rob Ryan and his 3-4 defense in 2013, there was some optimism that Vilma could fit as the weakside linebacker. Additionally, 3-4 LBs aren’t expected to cover nearly that ground that 4-3 ‘backers do, so perhaps a 3-4 look could benefit an aging Vilma.

All of which is to note that Vilma doesn’t lack for options when searching for a potential match with a team. PFR’s pages show that Vilma has been linked to teams such as the Falcons and the Cowboys (each of whom lost a key linebacker), while Vilma himself reached out to the Dolphins, who were not interested in his services. I think the Cardinals would make some sense, as they are relying on an inexperienced Kevin Minter and an older Larry Foote in the wake of Washington’s suspension. The Broncos and Giants are also asking marginal players to contribute in the middle, and could be viable landing spots. The Vikings could be interested, as well, but Vilma might not want to play for a team that probably won’t contend in 2014.

At this point in his career, Vilma won’t be handed anything but a one-year deal. A contract for the minimum salary benefit, with a modest signing bonus, is a real possibility, especially considering his injury history. A team could potentially get desperate later in training camp, and offer Vilma a slightly larger deal, perhaps laden with performance-based incentives and/or gameday active roster bonuses. Ultimately, he’ll have to decide how badly he wants to return to the league, and if he lands with the right team and the right defensive front, he could end up being something of a bargain.

Falcons Won’t Sign Jonathan Vilma

8:30pm: The injured knee that landed Vilma on the injured reserve has received a “thumbs up” medically, tweets Ian Rapoport of He adds that if Vilma’s signed, it will be before training camp.

4:19pm: Things could change, but as of right now, the Falcons won’t be signing free agent linebacker Jonathan Vilma, according to Mike Garafolo of FOX Sports (on Twitter). Atlanta worked out Vilma earlier today.

If the Falcons sign Vilma, Garafolo says that it will be further down the line and possibly during training camp. Vilma and other veteran linebackers have been connected to Atlanta ever since the team lost Sean Weatherspoon to a ruptured Achilles, but the Falcons might not be in a rush to find an out-of-house replacement, if at all.

It’s also possible that Vilma’s performance today wasn’t quite what Atlanta was expecting. The former Jets and Saints standout has struggled with a left knee problem that limited him to just one game in 2013.

Free Agent Rumors: Flowers, Vilma, Muir

Earlier today, we heard that cornerback Brandon Flowers, the most noteworthy name on the free agent market, will likely make a decision on where to sign within the next three to five days. The afternoon has brought a couple of updates on Flowers, along with several items on other free agents. Let’s dive in and check out the latest….

  • The Chargers are hosting Flowers for a free agent visit today, reports Ian Rapoport of (via Twitter). As I pointed out this morning, the most serious suitors for the veteran corner may be teams we haven’t heard many rumblings about yet, and San Diego fits that bill.
  • According to Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun (via Twitter), Flowers has also received significant interest from the Falcons and Vikings. Sources from both of those clubs have downplayed their interest to local reporters, so it’s hard to get a read on whether their interest is being overstated by sources close to Flowers or understated by team sources. Besides those clubs, the Patriots and Ravens also have some interest, tweets Wilson.
  • As they continue to weigh options to replace Sean Weatherspoon, the Falcons are working out veteran linebacker Jonathan Vilma today, according to Rapoport (via Twitter). A source confirms to’s Vaughn McClure (Twitter link) that the workout went well, though the team didn’t sign Vilma right away.
  • Defensive tackle Daniel Muir, who spent last season with the Raiders after also playing for the Packers, Colts, and Jets, auditioned for the Ravens today, according to Wilson (via Twitter).
  • Guards Steve Greene and John Sullen and defensive tackles Gilbert Pena and Everett Dawkins tried out for the Giants at the team’s minicamp today, tweets Paul Schwartz of the New York Post.

Falcons Eyeing Vilma, Angerer, Dobbins

Falcons coach Mike Smith says the club is going to look in-house to replace the injured Sean Weatherspoon, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t evaluate their options in free agency. Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (on Twitter) hears that the Falcons are looking hard at former Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma. They’re also keeping an eye on fellow free agent veterans Pat Angerer and Tim Dobbins, according to Rapoport’s source.

If Vilma’s medicals look good, the Falcons may bring him in for a visit soon (link). The addition of Vilma could help shore up Atlanta’s linebacking core while also giving them some needed leadership in the locker room. Vilma is also being considered by the Cowboys, along with Brian Urlacher, as a potential replacement for Sean Lee. The former University of Miami star played only 12 snaps in 2013 following a knee injury.

Back in April it was reported that Angerer had interest from multiple clubs but wanted to make sure he was back to 100% health before auditioning for anyone. Angerer, 27, recorded 126 tackles in his first two NFL seasons but has played in just 12 games over the last two. Dobbins, 31, saw just three games of action last season for the Texans.

While Vilma, Angerer, and Dobbins will be considered by Atlanta, Rapoport says (link) that ex-Steelers LB James Harrison and the recently retired London Fletcher won’t be looked at. Earlier today, our own Luke Adams gave a thorough breakdown of all of the Falcons’ options and mentioned Vilma and Angerer as two of the top possibilities.

Cowboys Considering Urlacher, Vilma

In the wake of Sean Lee‘s season-ending ACL injury, the Cowboys are weighing their options at the linebacker position, which includes eyeing some veteran free agents. According to Ed Werder of (via Twitter), Dallas is evaluating Brian Urlacher and Jonathan Vilma, among others. Regarding Urlacher, Werder adds (via Twitter) that nothing is imminent, but that the former Bear “took notice” when Lee went down and a hole opened up in the Cowboys’ starting lineup.

Urlacher and Vilma are a couple of the more notable names available on a free agent market that also includes linebackers like Pat Angerer and Dan Connor. Still, even if the Cowboys decide to add one of those free agents, that player wouldn’t be relied upon to fill Lee’s role himself — Werder notes that the club figures to use a two-man platoon.

It’s also possible that the Cowboys will simply elect to roll with their in-house options. Although the team has watched tape and evaluated guys like Urlacher and Vilma, a Dallas source tells Werder that the Cowboys don’t have a ton of interest in either player (Twitter link). We’ll have to wait and see if that’s a smokescreen or an indication that the club will pass on veteran free agents.

AFC Notes: Vilma, Gronkowski, Manziel, Bills

Joe Philbin and Dennis Allen are among several coaches who have a lot riding on the 2014 season, writes Lorenzo Reyes of USA Today. While the “hot seat” label may be premature, the Dolphins would surely like to see improvement both off-the-field (in the wake of the Jonathan Martin scandal) and on it, with quarterback Ryan Tannehill potentially taking another step forward. The Raiders, meanwhile, used their ample cap space to infuse their roster with veterans, and the team’s leadership obviously hopes Allen can improve upon 2013’s 4-12 record.

More from around the AFC:

  • Free agent linebacker Jonathan Vilma reached out to the Dolphins, but Miami was not interested in adding the veteran, reports Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. Vilma played only 12 snaps in 2013 following a knee injury.
  • Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski is reportedly “progressing well” following his January surgery to repair his torn ACL and MCL, according to Ben Volin of the Boston Herald.
  • Browns offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan worked with Robert Griffin III in Washington, and he believes RG3 and new Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel have some common traits, per Jim Corbett of USA Today. “Johnny and Robert are very similar,” said Shanahan. “They’re both talented guys who can make plays with their legs. But there comes a time in the NFL when they’re going to keep you in the pocket, and you’re going to have to have that ability to make the throws with your arm and mind. And Johnny, just like Robert, has that arm talent and intelligence to do that.”
  • While Jerry Hughes won’t have a problem finding a role in new Bills defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz’s scheme, fellow pass-rusher Manny Lawson might, writes’s Mike Rodak. Lawson spent most of last season close to the line of scrimmage as a stand-up linebacker, and that position simply doesn’t exist in Schwartz’s defense.
  • Ravens cornerback Lardarius Webb is happy with the development of 2013 first-round safety Matt Elam, according to Matt Zenitz of the Carroll County Times. “From last year to this year, I see a big jump with his leadership, with him controlling the back end and just being that safety controlling the calls,” said Webb. “I just really like where I see him going.”
  • The Broncos’ defensive line is heavy on both depth and competition, writes Jeff Legwold of, and improved line play will be essential if Denver hopes to create opportunities for edge rushers Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware.

NFC Links: Marshall, 49ers, Winston

A couple of notes from around the NFC…

  • Brandon Marshall is not worried about this future with the Bears, and he said as much on “The Waddle and Silvy Show” on ESPN Chicago 1000 (via “One way or another, they’re going to get the deal done,” Marshall said.
  • The 49ers have been seeking a veteran inside linebacker and Brandon Spikes was one of the players on their list, says’s Bill Williamson (via Twitter). The player ultimately proved to be too expensive and signed with the Bills.
  • In a separate article, Williamson gives a list of potential veteran linebackers that the 49ers could be interested in. Among them are Desmond Bishop, Dan Connor and Jonathan Vilma.
  • Offensive tackle Eric Winston still hopes to return to the Cardinals, according to a tweet from SiriusXM NFL Radio. The tweet quotes Winston: “I’ve maintained I hope I’m going back to (the Cardinals). I still think there’s a possibility for that, but have to keep looking.”
  • Prior to signing with the Saints, Ramon Humber considered signing with the Vikings and the Patriots, according to Ramon Antonio Vargas of the New Orleans Advocate.

Saints Waive Smith, Harper, Greer; Won’t Re-Sign Vilma

4:51pm: The Saints have officially issued a press release announcing that Smith, Harper, and Greer have been cut. The team also won’t re-sign Vilma, according to the release.

“These were not easy decisions to make,” said Saints GM Mickey Loomis in a statement. “Since we acquired them, Jabari, Roman, Will and Jonathan have all been excellent players on the field for us. Each of them were integral parts in turning this program around and winning a Super Bowl…. However, a new NFL year is about to begin and, with the start of free agency in March, these difficult moves allow us to position our team under the salary cap to move forward for 2014.”

4:48pm: The Saints will also release cornerback Jabari Greer, according to Florio (via Twitter). The Saints could create about $3.18MM in cap savings by cutting Greer, but it’s not possible the amount will be lower than that, since he could be eligible for $1MM+ in injury protection, as Rapoport explains in a pair of tweets.

4:34pm:’s Ian Rapoport confirms (via Twitter) that Harper has been informed the Saints have released him.

4:18pm: Today’s list of NFL transactions didn’t include any from the Saints, so it looks like potential cap casualties have at least earned another day on the roster. Still, cuts are expected to come this week. According to Triplett (via Twitter), the Saints have informed Smith that he’ll be waived. Meanwhile, Harper sent out a thank-you tweet to Saints fans, suggesting that he has also been told he’ll be released.

9:11am: The Saints are expected to release a handful of veteran players to increase cap flexibility, and those cuts could begin as soon as today, a league source tells Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. Mike Triplett of (Twitter link) echoes that report, with both reports identifying safety Roman Harper and defensive end Will Smith as two potential cap casualties for the team.

As Jason Fitzgerald of details in his latest 2014 salary cap update, only one team (the Cowboys) has more money committed to ’14 salaries than the Saints, who are currently $13MM+ over the projected cap for next year. Waiving Smith represents the best way to immediately clear nearly that entire deficit — in the last year of his contract, Smith has a cap number of $13.9MM, which could be reduced to just $2.35MM in dead money by releasing him.

As for Harper, after starting nearly every game for the Saints in the previous six seasons, he was limited by injuries in 2013, and was ineffective in his limited playing time. The cap savings won’t be as significant for the Saints if and when they waive Harper, since the veteran still has $3.69MM in bonus money on the final two years of his deal, but the club could still clear $2.18MM in space by cutting him.

Florio notes in his report that a return to New Orleans for free agent linebacker Jonathan Vilma appears highly unlikely. The 31-year-old has been plagued by injuries, which limited him to just one game in 2013, and Vilma’s recent comments about having to share a locker room with a gay teammate aren’t likely to help his free agent stock much either.