Linebacker Jonathan Vilma had a quick and positive reaction to the news that the Saints hired Rob Ryan as their new defensive coordinator and he’ll likely be pleased to hear what coach Sean Payton had to say about a role for Vilma in Ryan’s 3-4 scheme.
During an interview on Sirius/XM Radio on Tuesday, Payton said that he didn’t think Vilma would have a problem transitioning into Ryan’s defense. Payton talked about playing Vilma, long a middle linebacker in the 4-3, as a weakside linebacker alongside Curtis Lofton in a 3-4 with under principles to keep him from taking guards on by himself.
“Yeah, I don’t think anyone wants to place him over that guard bubble and have to take on that block. And I think he’s a guy that runs to the ball and has great vision, very instinctual football player. I think you take some of that away if all of a sudden he’s playing over an uncovered guard and now his size becomes an issue,” Payton said, via the New Orleans Times-Picayune. “A lot of things may concern you with a player change. So, he’ll play over on that weakside position and that will be very similar to what he did this past year. Curtis Lofton, who’s a little heavier, will play on that strong inside Mike position. So I think that part of it for those two guys transition pretty well.”
Vilma will probably have to swallow more than a position change. He’s got a cap hit of about $8.6 million for the coming season and it’s thought the team will approach him to renegotiate this offseason. Payton didn’t discuss Vilma’s contract specifically, but it’s a good bet his hypothetical role in the defense will remain just that without a price tag that’s a bit easier for the team to swallow.