Pouha was the Nose Tackle that anchored the middle of our defensive front. He was not only dominant at the point of attack, he was consistently a penetrating and disruptive force that wrecked many plays before they began. On a defensive unit that contains the likes of Darrelle Revis
and David Harris
, a very good argument could be made that Pouha was the best player on that side of the ball in 2011. The problem for the Jets
is that Pouha is a 32 year old free agent, and this is probably his last best chance to cash in on his talents.
For some perspective, Miami Dolphin NT Paul Soliai
was franchised (an average of the top 5 salaries of players at the same position) last off-season and netted over $12 million. What this could mean for 2011's best NT is anybody's guess.
Pouha was very good in 2011 and seemed to only get better as the season wore on. The reason for that could be that Pouha finally got the snaps to develop his game. He held his own for a season and a half after Jenkins went down. He steadily improved over a couple of seasons and off-seasons, and then came into his own in 2011. Maybe 2011 was a launching point for the dominance that is to come as he continues to make strides. But its also hard to ignore the fact that maybe Pouha was a little extra motivated by being in a walk year. We've seen many an athlete, in many professional sports, light it up and cash in on their performance in their season before free agency. Pouha was no doubt an intrical part of the Jets defense in 2010 and 2011. And it very well may be the case that we won't really know how good he is/was until he's gone.
The Jets, however, are not without options if Pouha cashes in elsewhere. Mike Devito has looked excellent at the position in limited snaps. Devito, like Pouha, is very strong at the point of attack and could no doubt hunker down and anchor the middle of the defensive front. Devito has also flashed penchant for being a penetrating and disruptive force in the running game. However, Pouha gets little credit for increasing his effectiveness in being disruptive in the passing game, which is a weakness of Devito. Mo Wilkerson also has the size and athleticism to be freaky good as a NT. He's not as good against the run right now, but he would be a demon against the pass. Kenrick Ellis
, with an off-season improving his strength and technique, very well could be ready by next season and he has the raw talent and ability to be elite. Martin Tevaseau has the size and ability to hold down the fort at the nose. Ropati Pitoitua also could hold his own, but his lengthy frame may not make him as well suited as others to man the NT position.
Pouha was a fantastic player in 2011, and his departure may be devastating if he signs elsewhere. However, he may command a price that makes him unafforable. Then again, we might already have a replacement on the roster thats just as good, if not better (a la Pouha when Jenkins went down). Whats say you? Can we afford to lose Pouha? Can we afford to keep him?