Now that we’ve all had some time to digest the Santonio Holmes deal to the Jets, here’s the one name that pops into my head: Derrick Burgess.
Follow me here. The Patriots took a risk on a malcontent Raider last summer, shipping third- and fifth-round picks to Oakland to acquire the edge player. Seven months later, their archrivals, the Jets, have brought in two risks — Chargers cornerback Antonio Cromartie and Steelers receiver Santonio Holmes — for about the same price. Cromartie cost a conditional second-/third-round pick, and Holmes was brought in for a fifth-rounder.
The Jets’ risks are bigger, since both Cromartie and Holmes are dealing with off-field issues, but the payoff could exponentially higher. Burgess was 31 when he was traded for, coming off a 3.5-sack season and bringing injury history with him. Holmes is 26, coming off a 79-catch, 1,248-yard season, with a Super Bowl MVP in his back pocket and a reputation for being one of the best big-game receivers in football. Cromartie turns 26 Wednesday, has as much natural play-making ability as corner in the NFL, and brings man-to-man skills that fit Rex Ryan’s system like a glove.
Again, the Jets are taking on risk here. Cromartie’s paternity issues are not going away. Holmes is suspended for the first four games for violating the league’s drug policy. But New York believes the strong locker room they built under Eric Mangini will be able to control the problem and point troubled players in the right direction.
GM Mike Tannenbaum told me as much, when discussing Cromartie, last month. He said, at the time, “If we do take risks, we want to have that upside for success with young, talented players,” and Holmes would represent that the same way Cromartie does.
Tannenbaum went on: “The No. 1 job requirement here is that you have to love football. … We really have an environment here of people that love football and that want to be here, to lift weights, to run, to work in the offseason program. That environment becomes infectious.”
The other thing: If these guys play to expectations, and the Jets want to keep them, each will require a new contract, since Holmes and Cromartie are both up after this year.
I’ve seen these types of things blow up before (Cowboys in 2008). It’s also worked before — it did here with Corey Dillon in 2004 and Randy Moss in 2007. Considering New York’s locker room, and the price the Jets paid, it seems like a worthwhile risk, especially when you consider the price is very close to what the freight was for Burgess (who’s still a free agent.)
And if it isn’t, well, it’ll at least be one heck of a season of “Hard Knocks” for HBO.