The former Miami (Fla.) product saw his 2007 season cut short after nine games because of right knee surgery. Before that, Vilma played in all 16 games in each of his three previous seasons after the Jets made him a first-round pick in 2004.
His 116 tackles were tops on the Jets' defense in 2005, and in four NFL seasons, Vilma, who has started all but two of the 55 games in which he has played, compiled 460 tackles, six interceptions and 2 1/2 sacks.
"Jonathan has been a diligent, productive performer throughout his tenure with the Jets," said New York general manager Mike Tannenbaum. "I am confident that he will be an asset to the Saints."
Reports said Vilma likely will play middle linebacker in the Saints' 4-3 defense.
He played outside in the Jets' 3-4 scheme.