The New York Jets have just released former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Santonio Holmes. Holmes was a highly productive player for Mark Sanchez and the Jets in his first couple of seasons in New York, but he has been highly limited over the past two seasons due to significant injuries.
The Steelers drafted Holmes out of Ohio State in the first round of the 2006 NFL Draft, becoming a starter in his second season. He was instrumental in the Steelers’ Super Bowl victory following the 2008 season, for which he was named the Super Bowl MVP, but his playoff performances leading up to the Super Bowl hold just as much weight.
He followed that up with statistically the best season of his career in 2009, catching a career-high 79 passes for 1248 yards and five touchdowns. He totaled 20 touchdown receptions in his four years in Pittsburgh.
Due to fears that he would be too costly to re-sign, and because of pending league discipline for substance abuse, among other character concerns, the Steelers front office acted quickly in the 2010 offseason, trading Holmes to the wide receiver-starved Jets for a fifth-round pick in the 2010 draft.
The Steelers subsequently traded that pick for cornerback Bryant McFadden and a sixth-round draft pick, which was used to draft Antonio Brown.
Holmes instantly upgraded the Jets’ passing attack, and in 12 games, with 10 starts, caught 52 passes for 746 yards and six touchdown receptions, his play directly leading to victories for New York, who went on to lose to the Steelers in the AFC Championship game toward the end of the 2010 season.
Holmes tied a career-high eight touchdown receptions in 2011, but his yardage total decreased, despite starting all 16 games, largely due to poor quarterback play.
In 2012, Holmes suffered a severe Lisfranc injury in his foot in the fourth game of the season, which forced him to miss the rest of the year. The passing offense nearly came to a screeching halt without him and in part led to the Jets drafting quarterback Geno Smith in the second round of the 2013 draft.
With a rookie at quarterback, and still struggling to recover from injury, Holmes registered just 23 receptions for 456 yards and one touchdown this past season, though that yards per catch total is indicative of the type of passer Smith showed himself to be, a lover of the deep ball.
Holmes is more of a possession receiver at heart, with the ability to turn short passes into long gains, rather than going for the long ball. 20 percent of his targets in 2013 were on deep balls, and he caught eight of those 11 deep targets with no drops for 279 yards and his one touchdown.
Releasing Holmes will save the Jets his base salary of $8,250,000 this season. He cashed in big with the Jets following the 2010 season, during which he helped lead the team deep into the playoffs, but with the type of quarterback play in New York, spending so much on a receiver isn’t justified.
If Holmes is recovered from his foot injury, he can still be a highly productive player if in the right system. He has major red flags when it comes to character concerns, however, which is what mainly got him out of Pittsburgh, so don’t expect to see him back in the black and gold any time soon.