Because Falcons linebacker Sean Witherspoon sustained a ruptured Achilles tendon this week that’s expected to end his 2014 season, Atlanta is considering signing former Saint Jonathan Vilma as a replacement, according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport.
Rapoport reported late Wednesday on Twitter that Vilma as well as free-agent linebackers Pat Angerer and Tim Dobbins were all being considered by the Falcons. But Rapoport singled out Vilma as someone Atlanta might bring in for a visit soon if he “checks out medical from afar.”
Some New Orleans fans on social media couldn’t bear the thought of having Vilma join the Saints’ NFC South nemeses. One fan wrote to him on Twitter, “If you sign w/ ATL I will die.”
Vilma replied, “Uhhh I think that’s a stretch lol.” In part of a separate tweet, he wrote, “Saints fans are a trip on Twitter.”
From 2008 to 2010, Vilma led the Saints in solo tackles resulting in failed plays for opponents, according to the website Pro Football Focus. He accounted for nine takeaways during that time span and helped the Saints win Super Bowl XLIV.
But Vilma, a three-time Pro Bowl selection who began his pro career with the New York Jets from 2004-07, sat out five games with knee problems in 2011. He also spent the first six weeks of 2012 on the physically unable to perform list as he recovered from an offseason knee procedure. He then missed 17 of the Saints’ 18 games in 2013 after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery prior to the season.
Early this offseason, amidst a veteran salary purge, the Saints announced they would not re-sign Vilma when his contract expired in March. The same day of that announcement, the team said it intended to release three of Vilma’s defensive teammates who helped New Orleans win its lone Super Bowl: cornerback Jabari Greer, pass-rusher Will Smith and safety Roman Harper.
Smith was signed by New England. Harper is with Carolina, another of the Saints’ divisional rivals. Greer remains unsigned.