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Reasons for Keeping Jonathan Vilma
1. Jonathan Vilma has been the leader of the Saints defense since arriving from New York in an offseason trade in 2008. Despite his role in Bountygate, Vilma remains one of the team's most respected leaders. His presence last season helped the team improve on defense throughout the year.
2. Sean Payton said earlier this offseason he believes there is a place for Vilma in the Saints' new 3-4 defense.
According to Payton, the team will run the now-more common 3-4 style which operates more like a 4-3 than the traditional 3-4 made famous by Bill Belichick in New York when the team was winning Super Bowls under Bill Parcells.
This style of 3-4 defense will allow Vilma an opportunity to succeed.
3. If Vilma and the Saints can agree to a contract restructure (they have already done so with Curtis Lofton and David Hawthorne), the team would be three deep at a spot that requires two starters. Of course, few teams make it all 16 games plus the playoffs without suffering injuries at one position.
Vilma could, and perhaps should, be kept simply for depth purposes.
Reasons for Not Keeping Jonathan Vilma
1. If Vilma does not restructure his contract—which he is not guaranteed to do—he will cost the team $4.8 million in 2013. Considering he is likely to be a backup or rotational player at best, that is way too much money to pay a player who will be 31 when the season gets underway.
2. Vilma led the world in missed tackles in 2013 (no official statistic here, but if you argue that point you obviously didn't watch the games this past season). Age, injuries and rust may have each played a role in Vilma's incompetence in that particular area. Adjusting to a new defense in 2013 isn't going to help him overcome any of those factors.
3. Most notably, Vilma played in a 3-4 defense under Eric Mangini with the Jets. It wasn't long before Mangini discovered Vilma was not fit for his defense. Vilma was then placed on the trading block and shipped here to New Orleans and the renewed comforts of a 4-3 scheme.
Sure, Mangini played the old-school 3-4, as opposed to the new 3-4 that the Saints will employ. In reality, though, Vilma will still struggle in this defense. One less linemen (and at times two) isn't going to help Vilma shed blockers and tackle effectively.
4. Curtis Lofton is the equal of Vilma in leadership and already the quarterback of the defense. Don't confuse the unit by trying to have "equal" leaders and quarterbacks. It never works on offense. It won't work on defense either.