The New York Jets, continuing a win-now pattern that will delight their fans but test the coaching skills of coach Rex Ryan, traded their fifth-round pick in this month's NFL draft to Pittsburgh for Super Bowl XLIII MVP wide receiver Santonio Holmes.
It's a stunning fall from grace for Holmes. Fourteen months ago, he stood atop the football world after making a circus catch in the corner of the end zone to lift the Steelers to a record sixth Super Bowl victory. But with the news Saturday that he will likely be suspended for the first four regular-season games of the 2010 season for violating the league's substance-abuse policy -- profootballtalk.com reported the story -- Holmes will be eligible to play only 12 games for New York.
Add to that the fact that Holmes is playing the last year of his rookie contract, and the deal essentially is this: The Jets have Holmes for a 12-game trial. They could re-sign the talented 26-year-old wideout to a new contract, but it's likely they'll let the season play out and see how Holmes behaves, and how he fits in with quarterback Mark Sanchez and the young set of Jets playmakers.
Holmes, the 2009 Super Bowl MVP, gives Sanchez another big-time target to throw to in an offense that already included receivers Braylon Edwards, Jerricho Cotchery, promising tight end Dustin Keller and recently signed running back LaDainian Tomlinson.
Holmes has 235 career catches for 3,835 yards and 20 touchdowns, but also brings his share of off-field issues, which could explain the relatively low price the Jets paid to get him.
The 26-year-old Holmes is facing a lawsuit in Florida from a woman who claims he threw a glass at her, cutting her above the eye, in an Orlando nightclub. The police also have been investigating the woman's claims. Holmes denies hurting the woman, and a witness has since taken responsibility for tossing the glass, according to Holmes' lawyer.
In 2008, Holmes was arrested for possession of marijuana, and he was involved in a domestic violence incident in 2006; the misdemeanor charges were dismissed.
The 5-foot-11 Holmes, a first-round pick out of Ohio State in 2006, adds a speedy complement to the Jets' passing game. He's coming off the best season of his career statistically, after having 79 catches for 1,248 yards and five touchdowns. His presence should allow Cotchery to assume more of a slot role, where he is extremely effective, and take double coverage off Edwards.
Holmes has one year remaining on his contract.
"Wow we got Holmes this is crazy," All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis posted on his Twitter account. "We makin big moves this off-season. Putting the pieces together to get closer to that superbowl ring."
After making it to the AFC championship game last season, the Jets and general manager Mike Tannenbaum have been aggressive despite the league's "Final Eight" restrictions that have limited who they could sign. New York has traded for Holmes and cornerback Antonio Cromartie, and signed Tomlinson, safety Brodney Pool and kicker Nick Folk.
Add in the draft-day trade with Cleveland to select Sanchez last April and the acquisition of wide receiver Edwards from the Browns in October, and the Jets have made quite a splash during the last 12 months.
The Jets are still also waiting to hear from free agent linebacker-defensive end Jason Taylor, who met with the team for two days last week. The NFL's active sacks leader went back home to Weston, Fla., on Friday without a deal in place, but is expected to make a decision sometime this week whether to join the team he has considered an enemy for most of his 13-year career.
The Jets have shown themselves to be unafraid of adding players with questionable backgrounds. They traded for Edwards two days after he was accused of punching a friend of NBA star LeBron James in October outside a downtown Cleveland nightclub.
New York also acquired Cromartie last month from San Diego even though he was dealing with paternity issues. Cromartie has fathered seven children by six women in five states, and the Jets advanced him $500,000 to clear up his legal troubles.
The Jets acknowledged having interest before last year's draft in former Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress, who's currently serving a prison sentence. Burress pleaded guilty last August to attempted criminal possession of a weapon for having a loaded handgun in a nightclub that went off and shot him in the leg in November 2008.
Despite being benched earlier in the 2008 season for the marijuana arrest, Holmes made a number of big plays for Pittsburgh -- none bigger than in the Super Bowl against Arizona. His tiptoe catch in the corner of the end zone of a 6-yard touchdown pass from Ben Roethlisberger with 35 seconds left sent the Steelers to a 27-23 victory. He caught nine passes for 131 yards in the game.
The move for Holmes could also end speculation that the Jets might have interest in acquiring Denver's Brandon Marshall. Despite saying those rumors were unfounded, New York has been grouped among numerous teams who could make a move before the draft for the Broncos receiver.