Tom Johnson tells hometown paper: Vikings better scheme fit, but I’ll miss Saints _lowres

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS. Carolina QB Cam Newton (1) is chased out of the pocket by New Orleans Saints defensive end Tom Johnson (96) in the 2nd half of the Saints' 45-17 win over the Carolina Panthers during the 2011 season in the Mercedes Benz Superdome.

Former Saints defensive lineman Tom Johnson believes the scheme that awaits him in Minnesota after he officially signed with the Vikings on Thursday will suit him better than the one he’s moving on from in New Orleans.

That’s what Johnson told a Mississippi news outlet that covers the area where he grew up.

“It’s a good fit for me because we will play the 4-3 scheme and that fits me best,” Johnson said about the Vikings and their plans to use four defensive linemen and three linebackers to The Mississippi Press. “In the 4-3 scheme, I will be able to ... line up outside of the guard.

“That will allow me to use my attack ability, which is my strength.”

In Johnson’s last season with the Saints, a defense in its first year under the command of coordinator Rob Ryan deployed a scheme that didn’t always utilize four down linemen.

Johnson agreed to terms Wednesday on a one-year deal that could be worth up to $1.45 million — it included a minimum of $850,000, a $100,000 signing bonus, a $100,000 roster bonus and a $600,000 incentive package. He signed it Thursday after passing a physical, the Vikings announced.

The defensive lineman had been with the Saints for three seasons, tallying 57 tackles (35 solo) and five sacks in 40 games as a backup. He plied his trade in Arena Football, NFL Europe and the Canadian Football League before landing on the Saints in 2011.

Johnson, who turns 30 in August, entered the offseason as a restricted free agent. But the Saints didn’t tender him, and he was free to sign with whomever he pleased.

While Johnson chose Minnesota, he told the Mississippi Press it won’t be easy to leave New Orleans, which is about a two-hour drive from his hometown of Moss Point, Miss.

“New Orleans gave me a chance to play in the NFL after playing in Canada,” Johnson, who helped Moss Point High School win a state championship in 2000, said to the Mississippi Press. “I will always be a fan of New Orleans for that opportunity. The fans of the ‘Who Dat Nation’ and the Mississippi Gulf Coast are like none other.

“Their passion for the Saints is something I will never forget. But going to Minnesota is a better fit for me with the new scheme.”

Johnson continued to the Mississippi Press: “I will miss New Orleans and the fans around Moss Point who have supported me since I left high school. This is a great opportunity for me to continue to play the game that I love.”

Prior to going pro but after high school, Johnson played football at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College as well as Southern Miss.