The news broke on ESPN late last night about the apparent trade of former Super Bowl MVP Santonio Holmes to the New York Jets for a measly fifth round draft pick. I was a little shocked at first, but I’m beginning to understand the move and starting to kind of like it. Holmes would have entered the final year of his contract with the Steelers, and if Plaxico Burress was any indication after the 2004 season, the Rooney’s would not have retained Holmes. Amidst this trade, ESPN also reported the Holmes will have to serve a four game suspension this upcoming regular season for failing a league drug test. And, on top of that, the Steelers rid themselves of a continual trouble-maker and a constant headache for the franchise.
That being said, Santonio Holmes is a premier receiver in the NFL who has big play capability on offense as well as special teams. Everyone in Pittsburgh knows he’s a proven producer in the playoffs. Why was he traded? Contract expiration, off-field issues (including twitter), and the fact that wide receiver might be the easiest position to replace in football. Even after Holmes was drafted in the first round in 2006, Limas Sweed and Mike Wallace were drafted in high rounds in ‘07 and ‘08, and Antwaan Randle-El and Arnaz Battle were brought in this off-season. Although one of the Steelers’ top-flight playmakers is gone, depth is still there at the position. This is not like losing Roethlisberger, Polamalu, or even Aaron Smith. If the Steelers were to go 11-5 this year with Holmes, they will probably still go 11-5 without him, maybe 10-6 at the worst.
A lot of reaction surrounds the return of only a fifth round pick. If he were to be gone anyway next year via free agency, it’s better than nothing . Remember that Tom Brady was drafted in the sixth round and James Harrison went completely undrafted. A diamond in the rough can be found with any draft selection. On top of that fifth round pick, there are some rumors that Leon Washington might be sent to the Steelers as part of the deal. If that’s the case, Pittsburgh would be getting a back-up running back as well as a solid kickoff and punt returner. If that happens, it’s just a rumor, the trade does look a lot better.
So for all those Steeler fans out there crying and complaining, remember that Kevin Colbert and the Rooney’s are a lot smarter than you, that wide receivers can be easily replaced and are not the most vital position in the NFL, and that with or without Santonio Holmes the make-up of the Pittsburgh Steelers does not change that drastically. You rid yourself of an off-field problem that will be suspended, you get a small piece in return, and you can replace him in-house with an up-and-coming Mike Wallace, welcome to the NFL.