With recent legal issues engulfing two of their team’s biggest stars, the Pittsburgh Steelers decided today to reduce the negative publicity surrounding the team by trading wide receiver Santonio Holmes to the New York Jets. In return, the Steelers will reportedly receive the Jets fifth round pick in the upcoming rookie draft.
Holmes is coming off a career year in 2009 and caught the game winning pass in the team’s Super Bowl Championship season in 2008 so this move is clearly not based on his ability on the field.
With quarterback Ben Roethlisberger recently involved in a second sexual assault investigation since last July, the move by the team’s management to trade Holmes would seem to be an attempt to help clean up the team’s public image, an important consideration for an organization long considered to be one of the most respectable in all of pro sports.
Despite his considerable talent on the field, Holmes has had numerous legal difficulties since entering the league. This month, a woman in Florida claimed he threw a glass at her in a nightclub resulting in a cut above here eye. He has also been arrested for marijuana possession and domestic violence.
Although the Steelers only received a fifth round pick in the trade, the deal is not as one-sided as it appears to be. Holmes faces suspension given his latest legal troubles, suspected to be a four gamer, and he is entering the final year of his rookie contract and will be looking for a lucrative long-term extension from the Jets.
In New York, Holmes will likely assume a position in the starting line-up alongside Braylon Edwards with Jerricho Cotchery moving to the slot. There is also an outside chance Cotchery is moved at the draft.
The Jets now possess one of the better wide receiver depth charts in the league and this trade positions them as the team to beat in the AFC East.
Holmes topped 1,000 yards for the first time in his four-year career in 2009, finishing with 79 receptions for 1,248 yards and five touchdowns. In New York, however, his fantasy prospects dim due to the Jets focus on running the ball and the number of talented veteran wide receivers now on the roster.
Assuming Holmes receives a four game suspension (reports out this morning indicate he will receive a suspension of that length), look for him to finish with about 800 yards and six touchdowns through 12 games. Edwards projects to stay at around 800 yards with the same number of touchdowns. However, neither player can be considered to have great upside unless Cotchery is traded.
Cotchery is now only worth owning in deep leagues.
Holmes presence on the Jets certainly helps the fantasy prospects of quarterback Mark Sanchez, who now has three solid wide receivers to throw to as well as pass catching tight end in Dustin Keller and running back LaDainian Tomlinson. He moves up to the 20th spot in the quarterback rankings from 26th previously.
However, the biggest winner of this trade from a fantasy perspective is Steelers wideout Mike Wallace. The third round pick dazzled as a rookie, making several big plays on his way to catching 39 passes for 756 yards and six touchdowns.
Wallace has excellent speed and Steelers management is showing they are confident he is ready to step into the starting line-up to replace Holmes’ production. He becomes a high end WR3 or low end WR2 in larger leagues but one with tremendous upside. Look for him to hit 950-1,000 yards with 7-8 touchdowns in 2010.
I was big on Wallace as a dynasty league candidate already due to Hines Ward’s age and Holmes’ troubles. He becomes much more attractive in those formats now.
Roethlisberger takes a slight hit with this trade moving from the sixth ranked quarterback to ninth overall, mostly because the Steelers don’t have great options to replace Wallace: Antwaan Randle El, Limas Sweed and Arnaz Battle. Diminutive returner Stefan Logan is also an option given the team’s musings about getting him more involved on offense.