Once a star, always a star? Jonathan Vilma is on his way out, as the New York Jets seem to be letting their best player, a legitimate defensive star, test the market for a top dollar long-term deal. It’s crazy how things have changed for the Jets as his production has dropped, along with being injured.
The Daily News has reported that the fan-favorite from the “U”, whose productivity has dropped the past two seasons under Eric Mangini, has been granted an opportunity from the Jets to go after a trade. It doesn’t mean a trade is inevitable, but it’s a sure thing that we can draw a conclusion from. All this has been sparked by Vilma not seeing eye to eye with the reason for Mangini’s 3-4 defensive system, a system that has not been suited for Vilma’s impressive strengths as a leader at MLB.
Vilma, with one year remaining on his rookie contract, also is looking for a long-term deal. Now, with the Jets’ help, he has the ability to speak with any team. If he agrees to a new contract, it will be up to that team and the Jets to negotiate trade compensation. The Jets could keep him, but they know they won’t receive anything next year if he bolts as a free agent.
It’s uncertain what the Jets are looking for, but there’s no doubt that Vilma’s stock fell tremendously because of last November’s major knee surgery. Vilma has started jogging and hopes to be running full speed in about a month, he wrote this week on his Web site. If he can show he’s healthy before the April 26 draft, it will improve his value with the Jets hoping to get back a high pick in return. Sources believe the Jets could get a third-round pick, perhaps slightly higher, for a healthy Vilma. I believe he is worth at least a second rounder and maybe a first round choice when healthy, as Vilma has proven to be a top 5 LB in the NFL by his game-changing performances his first two seasons, making the Jets defense what it was.
The Saints and Jaguars are top contenders for the Miami Hurricane alum. The Saints have made no secret of their desire to obtain a middle linebacker, as they’ve already made an offer to former Dolphin Zach Thomas. Former Jets defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson was recently hired by the Jaguars as an assistant, which explains their interest. Under Henderson, who ran a 4-3 defense, Vilma was named the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2004. In 2005, he made the Pro Bowl as an alternate, looking like one of the Jets’ best first-round picks in years as the team’s cornerstone to build around.When Mangini arrived in 2006 and switched to a 3-4, Vilma’s production suffered. Hiding his frustration, at least publicly, he vowed to adapt his sideline-to-sideline style into the more restrictive 3-4 scheme. But he got off to a slow start and suffered a mysterious knee injury in the seventh game, sidelining him for the remainder of the season.
Mangini was vague yesterday when discussing Vilma. Saying Vilma is “making some good progress” in his rehab, but when asked if he still considers Vilma a starter, Mangini replied, “It’s one of those things where you’re going to have to evaluate it as we go and hope everything works out. But Jon’s a good player. He’s a smart player. He’s been very productive for us and he’s incredibly competitive.”
I cannot believe what the Jets (Mangini) have done to Vilma. I thought he was the next big thing at LB and a star in the making, like another former Hurricane by the name of Ray Lewis. Injuries have hurt Vilma but I don’t know why Mangini would switch the defense around and come at odds’ ends with the team’s best player. This disarray has been shocking and I hope Vilma finds a place where he can shine and show off his unbelievable skill as a leader and tackling machine elsewhere in the NFL. Jacksonville would be a great place for him to turnaround his career with the two big DT’s John Henderson and Marcus Stroud paving the way for him up front to make a ton of tackles, having the ability to roam free and go sideline-to-sideline not having to deal with blockers as much as he did in New York.