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Vilma was acquired in a trade with the New York Jets in 2008. He led New Orleans in tackles during his first three season with the club and selected to Pro Bowls in 2009 and 2010. In 70 games with New Orleans, he was credited with 530 tackles, eight sacks, six interceptions, five forced fumbles and seven fumble recoveries.

Last season, however, Vilma began the season on the physically unable to perform list because of his recurring knee problems. He returned for only one game before sitting out the rest of the season, and on Wednesday he seemed to be comfortable with the Saints decision not to engage him in further contract talks.

On Twitter, he wrote: “Couple pro bowls and a superbowl ring later, I couldn’t have written that chapter any better. #WhoDat”

Like Smith, he was a defensive captain, but also like Smith, was implicated by the NFL as a ring-leader in a cash-for-hits bounty program that the league said the Saints ran from 2009-2011. Both players have always denied they ran a bounty pool as described by the NFL and successfully overturned suspensions. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, meanwhile, has maintained the league’s findings were accurate.


AP NFL website: