Linebacker Jonathan Vilma is scheduled to make a base salary of $4.8 million in 2013 and will cost the New Orleans Saints approximately $8.68 million because of some dead money and bonuses brought forward.
Since the Saints are close to $20 million over the cap, there’s no way he’s going to be able to stay in Who Dat Nation, right?
According to Larry Holder of the Times-Picayune, head coach Sean Payton told Sirius/XM NFL Radio Tuesday that there’s a spot for Vilma in the 2013 defense.
Yeah, I don't think anyone wants to place him over that guard bubble and have to take on that block. So, he'll play over on that weakside position and I that will be very similar to what he did this past year.
What Vilma did last year was flail about as he tried to adjust to playing on the outside as Curtis Lofton played in the middle of the Saints defense.
Vilma missed nine tackles in 2012 (remember he didn’t start playing until Week 7) and was a liability in coverage. And if history is an indicator, and it usually is, New Orleans switching to a 3-4 scheme won’t benefit Vilma.
What’s going on to make Payton believe that Vilma, who is five years older, won’t again decline?
Possibly nothing. It could be that Payton knows the decline will happen, but is willing to deal with it because the Saints don’t have the personnel in place for a 3-4 scheme. He continues:
I don't know that we have the pieces in place that we feel comfortable with, or certainly there's a transition. A lot of this process, as a matter of fact, he and I spoke for about an hour about certain players and where they line up the first day of OTAs. And then you take what you have on the roster and you begin to put them into these spots and then you tweak and you make adjustments and you look to make additions.
It sounds as if the Saints aren’t ready to excel in a 3-4 scheme with what’s currently on the roster. And if general manager Mickey Loomis doesn’t add exactly the right pieces in free agency and the upcoming April draft, New Orleans still won’t have all the right pieces.
That’s where Vilma comes in, as Payton believes the aging linebacker can transition well. But is restructuring Vilma’s contract, and likely still paying too much, the right move if Vilma is just going to act as a stop-gap until the Saints can bring in the right personnel?
New Orleans is better off cutting Vilma and using the money elsewhere.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and statements were obtained firsthand.