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This is the eighth in a series of scouting reports on key players who are expected to become free agents March 13, unless they are re-signed or franchised before then.
News: The Jets once again have a long list of free agents this offseason, and even though Pouha is 33 years old, he is likely their top priority to re-sign. "Sione is committed to taking care of himself and his family. His preference would be to stay with the Jets, but he is OK going someplace else," Brian Mackler, Pouha's agent, told PFW in January. "My goal is to get him a long-term deal." Pouha went on a Mormon mission between 1998-2000, so he has logged only seven seasons in the NFL and did not become a consistent starter until 2009. Pouha was selected as the team's Kyle Clifton Good Guy Award winner in 2011, as voted on by the Jets' staff. He shared the award with DL Marcus Dixon. The award recognizes "exceptionally consistent willingness, cooperation and professionalism in daily interaction with the various departments in the organization." Teams that run 3-4 defenses are always looking for the stout nose tackle that's necessary for the unit to be most successful. NTs Paul Soliai (Dolphins), Antonio Garay (Chargers) and Kelly Gregg (Chiefs) are also unrestricted free agents.
Notes: Pouha is coming off his best season, recording 58 tackles in 2011, which was the most in the league for a nose tackle. The Jets were second in the league in run defense up the middle, allowing 2.93 yards per carry. He played in all 16 games for the fifth consecutive season and started 15 of those games. Pouha had one sack, one safety, three passes defensed, one forced fumble, two fumble recoveries and five tackles for loss in 2011. Pouha first became a regular starter in 2009, when he recorded 45 tackles. He took over the starting nose tackle role in the seventh game of the '09 season after Kris Jenkins tore his ACL and started alongside Jenkins in 2010 before Jenkins blew out his ACL again. He has played in 94 career games and missed the entire 2006 season with a torn ACL suffered in training camp.
Positives: At 6-3, 325 pounds, Pouha is a load for opposing offensive linemen to contend with. He has great strength to clog running lanes and has good balance to stay on his feet. Pouha is a hard worker and well respected by his teammates and coaches. He emerged as one of the best run stuffers at arguably the most important position in the 3-4 defense.
Negatives: Pouha doesn't get after the quarterback — he has 3½ career sacks, making it hard for him to be an every-down player. While he doesn't have as many seasons under his belt, or wear on his knees, as other players that are his age, it cannot be ignored that he will be 33 next season.
Risk factor: Moderate. Pouha has become an extremely valuable piece of the Jets' defense, and 3-4 teams looking to upgrade at the nose would take a look if he hits the open market. But his age and the fact that he is rarely on the field on passing downs might keep his price tag down. A younger nose tackle may be preferred by other teams, but it is expected that the Jets will work hard to keep Pouha in New York.