It took time, but Sione Pouha has established himself as an excellent nose tackle. He registered his best year in 2011, consistently dominating the point of attack in the run game. It could not have come at a better time. Pouha is set to become an unrestricted free agent.
Pouha is an excellent player at an important position. There are some mitigating factors in deciding whether the Jets should bring him back, though. Pouha is 33 years old. This might be his only shot at a big payday. I am not convinced the Jets should throw money at him, though.
Yes, Pouha is an excellent run stuffer, but he is not a playmaker in the Kris Jenkins/Haloti Ngata mold. He does not generate much of a push as a pass rusher. In addition to this, the Jets have shown under Rex Ryan an excellent ability to develop defensive linemen. They took Kenrick Ellis in the Draft last year for the purposes of having him take Pouha's place. With an entire offseason to refine his technique to go with his incredible physical potential.
Part of me feels like Pouha will be very expensive, but I am not convinced. A very similar nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin who dominated in the run game as much as Sione hit the open market last year. Some very smart people called him the best free agent not named Nnamdi Asomugha. He had to settle for a cheap one year contract with the Saints and a part-time role. Perhaps teams are not going to be willing to spend big on a nose tackle.
In an ideal world, the Jets would be able to keep Pouha. In the NFL, each team only has a certain amount of resources. A team needs to determine the wisest way to allocate them. Even if the Jets are not ready to roll with Ellis full time, there are good options available on the free agent market like Franklin and Paul Soliai. Moving Mike Devito to the nose would be another option. He has the strength to hold up there. Nose tackles tend to age well since their position is based more on brute strength, which can stay with age than athleticism, which does not. I just think it would be difficult to justify spending a ton on Pouha with Ellis waiting in the wings and other targets available. If the Jets can get him on a short bargain deal, I would be happy to see him back.