Is the Santonio Holmes Trade Really a Message? I Don't Think So

Chris StaafCorrespondent IApril 12, 2010

The Pittsburgh Steelers announced Super Bowl XLIII MVP Santonio Holmes has been traded to the New York Jets for a fifth-round pick this morning.

Holmes, without a doubt, has been one of the best deep threats in the league the last four seasons but has not been without controversy off the field.

From his troubles with the law his rookie season in 2006 and his infamous police stop with marijuana a Friday before an October 2008 game with the New York Giants, to this offseason where he allegedly threw a glass at a young woman at a club and tweeted about the glories of wake and bake, Holmes has made more news off the field than the Steelers would have liked.

Is Holmes better than a fifth-round pick? Absolutely.

Was this a "message" to another star player in legal trouble, QB Ben Roethlisberger? At face value yes, but no if you look more closely.

Rex Ryan coveted Holmes since Ryan ran the Baltimore Ravens defense. Ryan believed Holmes was the most dangerous receiver the Ravens would face all season while he served as the defensive coordinator for Baltimore.

Now the head coach of the Jets, Ryan got Holmes at a bargain price. Holmes is coming off a 1,200-yard season and is only 26 years old. But considering the Steelers added two veteran receivers this offseason in former Steeler Antwaan Randle El and former 49er Arnaz Battle, the Steelers were five deep at receiver until this morning.

But why else did Kevin Colbert and Art Rooney II trade Holmes? Here are some reasons.


1. His Legal Issues Became More Than Annoying

Glassgate was not an isolated incident. Holmes had off-the-field issues since his draft day. Remember the domestic violence case before training camp? What about his infamous nude picture? And the aforementioned marijuana stop before the Giants game in 2008?

It seemed every season there was some off-the field issue with Holmes. Now there is word Holmes will face a four-game suspension for breaking the substance abuse policy. I think that was the proverbial straw that broke the Steelers' back. It looked like Holmes turned a corner during the Super Bowl run in the 2008-09 season. Now it appears that just was not so. 


2. Emergence of Mike Wallace

Wallace had one of the top three rookie seasons last year and one of the best rookie seasons by a Steeler receiver ever. Wallace might not be the caliber of player Holmes is but Wallace emerged last season as one of the best deep threats in the league. Wallace will only get better and here is another thing: Wallace has not been mentioned in any police blotters.


3. Randle El and Battle

Randle El might not be the same player he was when the Steelers won Super Bowl XL but he still has enough left in his tank to be a solid No. 3 receiver, which he now becomes after today's trade.

Battle was one of the better special teams players in the league and is an OK receiver, a poor man's Hines Ward if you will. However Battle still may not see much time at receiver because...


4. Limas Sweed Might Not Be Gone Just Yet

Sweed, who is famous for dropping the ball, asked the Steelers for a trade or release in March after the Randle El and Battle signings. The Steelers did not release him and with today's trade, the prospects of Sweed making the team in 2010 as the fourth, possibly the third receiver if he has a great training camp and preseason, just got greater.

Sweed no doubt has great talent and the Steelers would not give up on him after just parts of two seasons unless the depth chart got too deep. Is there a chance the Steelers still could release or trade Sweed? Anything is possible but today's trade makes it seem more unlikely.


5. Message To Ben Roethlisberger? Not Too Sure About That

First off, Holmes was likely not going to be offered a new contract after this season, this being the final year of his rookie contract. Holmes likely would have been given the Plaxico Burress treatment after Burress's final year in Steel City in 2004. Here are some reasons as to why I don't see this trade as a message:

Roethlisberger's contract is one of the biggest in the league and he has five more years left on it, thus trading Big Ben would be a tough prospect. Yes, Roethlisberger is one of the five best QBs in the league but even in an uncapped year, that amount of cap hit (when the new CBA gets worked out) could hamstring a team.

Roethlisberger has not faced any criminal charges since his motorcycle accident. Yes, Big Ben has faced two accusations of sexual assault but he has not been charged and indicted. Sources told ESPN that charges of the alleged assault in Milledgeville, Ga., will not be filed against Roethlisberger.

Holmes has faced criminal charges, unlike Roethlisberger. Does this clear Big Ben? No, but one must realize he has not even been charged with any crime. There is a huge difference between accusation and indictment.

The Steelers also had to feel they might as well get something now for Holmes than possibly nothing after the 2010 season. Sure, the Steelers could have attained a compensatory pick for Holmes in 2011, but why wait?

This year's draft looks to be one of the deepest the league has seen in years and that fifth-round pick could make the team and be a solid contributor and make no waves off the field.

Then there is the four-game suspension. Holmes is not guaranteed to be on the field for the entire season. The risk did not outweigh the reward here.

One could easily see this trade as a "wake up" call to Big Ben, but I do not. I do not see the correlation between Roethlisberger's legal issues and Holmes's legal issues.

If Roethlisberger had just two more seasons left on his contract instead of five, then I would worry about Big Ben being traded. For most teams, Roethlisberger makes too much money. For most teams, Roethlisberger is an injury risk given his style of play. And last but not least, Roethlisberger is a unique talent and a new team must change their entire style of offense to suit Big Ben's unique style of play.

Roethlisberger still needs to wake up and realize what he is doing off the field. He should not need this trade as a wake up call.