After re-signing wide receiver Patrick Turner earlier this week, the New York Jets are now focusing on another impending free agent, and if they get their way, he won’t hit the market at all.
Perhaps the most unsung hero for the Jets over the last three years has been nose tackle Sione Pouha. A third-round pick back in 2005, Pouha is one of the longest tenured Jets, and one of the best.
Pouha, (who’s name is pronounced see-OWN-nee BO-oo-ha) was a late bloomer, as he didn’t become a full-time starter until midway through the 2009 season, replacing the injured Kris Jenkins.
However, Pouha has taken full advantage of the opportunity, emerging as one of the best 3-4 nose tackles in football over the last few years, despite not a single Pro Bowl appearance.
A leader on and off the field, many consider the 6’3, 325 lb Pouha the best run-stuffing nose tackle in the game, and as a free agent to be, the Jets would like nothing more than to see him be a Jet for life.
That’s why, according to Len Pasquarelli of Yahoo! Sports, the Jets are doing everything they can to try to sign him to an extension before he becomes an unrestricted free agent when free agency begins March 13.
He’s the Jets’ top priority this offseason, and it’s unlikely they would place the franchise tag on him, which would pay him $7.9 million on a one-year deal if they did.
The Jets would much rather sign him to a multi-year extension and continue to build their defensive line around him as they’ve done admirably the last few years.
A unique twist in negotiating a contract with Pouha, however, is his age. Although he’s only played seven seasons in the NFL, Pouha turned 33 this month, and did not enter the league until he was already 26 years old.
A member of the Church of Latter-day Saints, Pouha went on a Mormon mission for two years before he enrolled in the University of Utah.
His senior season at Utah under head coach Urban Meyer, Pouha was first-team All-Conference as the Utes went 12-0 and won the 2005 Fiesta Bowl.
The Jets selected him with the 88th overall pick of the draft as a project player, and their faith in him was rewarded as he finally put it all together under current Rex Ryan’s tutelage.
The question is, how many years should the Jets commit to him? He’s 33 years old, but he also doesn’t have as much physical wear on his body as most players his age.
He was a seldom used backup most of his career, and he didn’t play football for two years between high school and college, so it stands to reason that he’s still got a few elite years left in him.
It’ll be interesting to see what kind of contract he could command on the open market, but I hope we don’t have to find out.
Pouha is a huge part of the Jets defense and is well-liked and well-respected in the locker room by players and coaches alike.
With about four weeks left until Pouha can conceivably be available for any team looking for a Pro Bowl-caliber linemen, I’ve got my fingers crossed that the Jets can work out a deal as soon as possible.