Source: Saints lock up Vilma

Updated: February 28, 2009, 2:30 AM ET
By John Clayton | ESPN.com

The New Orleans Saints signed middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma to a five-year, $34 million deal that included $17 million in guarantees, according to a souce.

The Tampa Bay Bucaneers had been trying to lure Vilma out of New Orleans after the start of free agency Friday morning. The Saints faxed a contract extension offer Friday morning and talks heated up all day Friday.

Vilma became a free agent after his first season in New Orleans. He led the Saints with 151 tackles and three forced fumbles and added a sack and an interception.

Vilma played his first four NFL seasons with the New York Jets before the Saints acquired him in a trade. The former Miami standout was the NFL's Defensive rookie of the year in 2004. A knee injury cost Vilma the last nine weeks of 2007, but he played all 16 games for the Saints last season.

Saints general manager Mickey Loomis said re-signing Vilma was the team's priority during the offseason.

"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," Loomis said in a statement.

Vilma was arrested last month during a traffic stop in Miami on charges that included resisting arrest and obstruction of justice, but prosecutors agreed this week to drop the charges after he agreed to give to charity and clear up outstanding tickets.

John Clayton is a senior writer for ESPN.com. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

John Clayton

NFL senior writer