Jets keep DT Sione Pouha

It's too early to tell whether the New York Jets' circus has left town, but Sione Pouha hasn't.

Instead of becoming a free agent for the first time in his career, the veteran nose tackle decided to re-sign with the team known last season for its locker-room turmoil.

On the eve of free agency, Pouha signed a three-year contract to remain with the Jets. The contract reportedly is worth $15 million with $9.5 million guaranteed.

"I have the utmost respect for every single guy in that locker room," Pouha said Monday on a conference call, adding, "I'm excited to get back and start banging the weights and hitting the turf and working out with these guys. Other than the things that happened, I'm more excited for what's going to happen this year."

The Jets identified Pouha as a "priority" free agent, and they accomplished their goal of keeping him off the open market. They took a gamble by not using the franchise tag on him ($7.9 million), but they were confident they'd reach a long-term deal.

"This is something I always wanted," he said. "I'll be a Jet for life."

In a span of four days, the Jets locked up two of their six captains from last season -- Pouha and quarterback Mark Sanchez, who received a three-year, $40 million extension last Friday.

Sanchez's contract has created a firestorm, with some media types questioning whether he earned it after a mediocre season, but Pouha backed his quarterback. He said it was "well-deserved."

"I was excited for him when I heard he was going to get that extension," Pouha said. "And I was way more excited when I found out I'd be playing with him for the next three years."

Pouha, 33, a three-year starter, isn't a dynamic pass-rusher, but he's regarded as one of the better run-stuffers in the league. He recorded 58 tackles last season, most on the team among the linemen, even though he only played primarily on first and second down. He also made one sack, one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries.

The long-term deal is a bit risky because of his age, but Pouha got a late start in the NFL and hasn't accumulated as much wear and tear as other interior linemen. He called himself a "young 33."

He played in 60 percent of the defensive snaps last season. Because he served a religious mission while in college, he didn't get to the league until he was 26. He was a third-round pick of the Jets in 2005.

It was important to retain Pouha because his backup, second-year nose tackle Kenrick Ellis, isn't ready to step into a full-time role. Ellis, a third-round pick from Hampton (Va.), appeared in only five games last season and made little impact.

Pouha also is a positive locker-room presence. That, no doubt, factored into his value, considering the Jets' well-documented dissension.

The Jets still have 10 unrestricted free agents, but they're not expected to re-sign any before the start of free agency. The group includes safeties Jim Leonhard and Brodney Pool, linebacker Bryan Thomas and quarterback Mark Brunell.