On the heels of signing quarterback Mark Sanchez to a three year extension, the New York Jets locked up their nose tackle Sione Pouha through the 2014 season.
At 33 and widely regarded as the top run defender at his position, Pouha’s veteran leadership and exemplary play made him a sought after name on this year’s free agent market. The Jets front office made re-signing Pouha one of the team’s top priorities this offseason.
New York wasted little time in bringing back its Samoan ‘Sensation’, locking him in for a three-year deal worth 15 million dollars. A Jet for the rest of his football career, Pouha will be the centerpiece of a defense that is hoping to return to elite status in 2012. While Pouha’s heart and determination cannot be questioned, the 33-year old has taken his share of punishment along the Jets defensive line and concerns over longevity may mount.
While only 9.5 million of Pouha’s contract is fully guaranteed, the prospect of the 325 pound tackle staying healthy the next three years is probably wishful thinking. General manager Mike Tannenbaum has made a concerted effort to keep the Jets nucleus together, particularly those players hand-picked by the front office via the draft.
Drafted in 2005 with the 88th overall selection, Pouha was considered a project player coming out of Utah. Pouha performed in a backup role for his first four seasons, before ultimately replacing the injured Kris Jenkins in 2009. With Jenkins ultimately forced into retirement, the Jets barely missed a beat as Pouha filled in valiantly and became the franchise’s starting nose tackle.
While the organization’s philosophy is predicated on drafting home-grown talent and keeping them under contract long-term, if there was a team that desperately needed a ‘shake-up’ it was the 2011 New York Jets. With Sanchez and Pouha signed for the long haul, the front office is showing a vote of confidence in the team’s core players, hoping they will be motivated by their new contracts.
As the front office tries to establish stability and a commitment to its players, look for an infusion of new faces in the weeks to follow as the free agency period heats up.
Rick Laughland covers the New York Jets for Greenandwhitereport.com
You can follow him on Twitter @rlaughland
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