Wednesday, February 8, 2012
Jets keep Santonio Holmes
By Rich Cimini
From the moment the season ended, the New York Jets said divisive wide receiver Santonio Holmes wasn't going anywhere. Now it's official.
The Jets' financial commitment to Holmes practically doubled on Wednesday, meaning they're locked into him for $15.25 million in guarantees. A $7.5 million guarantee (most of his 2013 salary) was triggered by his being on the roster after the second day of the waiver period, which was Tuesday.
Holmes already was guaranteed his 2012 salary, $7.75 million, the second year of the five-year, $45 million contract he signed last summer.
Unwilling to cut him loose and eat that much money, the Jets made it clear from the start of the offseason they were committed to making it work with Holmes, whose rift with quarterback Mark Sanchez became public at the end of a disappointing 8-8 season.
Coach Rex Ryan, in an interview with ESPNNewYork.com at the Super Bowl, said Sanchez and Holmes spoke by phone and were trying to schedule a sit-down, perhaps even a weekend-long meeting, in an attempt to resolve their differences.
"I think they're actually going to get together," Ryan said Friday in Indianapolis. "Look, we were all disappointed at the way the season went. That's one thing we have in common. We also have a burning desire to win, to right the ship. The previous season, they had great chemistry. There's enough common ground to bring them back."
Holmes fell into such disfavor at the end of the season that two teammates told ESPNNewYork.com they went so far as to research his contract situation to find out if it was feasible to cut him. Holmes, frustrated by his role, was benched late in the season finale after jawing with teammates in the huddle. Some players said they felt he had "quit" in the game.
In the days leading into the last game, Holmes and Sanchez clashed in an after-hours, wide receivers-quarterback meeting that was organized by Sanchez. Holmes stopped attending the meetings, which many felt was a show of disrespect toward Sanchez.
Neither Sanchez nor Holmes has commented publicly since the day after the season, but Holmes addressed Sanchez in a tweet last weekend, saying how much he's looking forward to getting back to work.
Aside from chemistry issues, Holmes' production dropped last season. He finished with only 51 catches for 654 yards and eight touchdowns, and he has gone 25 consecutive games (including postseason) without a 100-yard game.
After making several big plays in 2010, helping the Jets to the AFC Championship Game, Holmes became the Jets' No. 1 free-agent priority. He played the 2010 season on the final year of his rookie contract after being traded from the Pittsburgh Steelers, but the former Super Bowl MVP hit the jackpot last summer.
Holmes, Braylon Edwards and Brad Smith were unrestricted free agents, and the Jets identified Holmes as their No. 1 receiver, letting Edwards and Smith walk.
To underscore his belief in Holmes, Ryan named him a team captain, a decision that backfired. After the season, Ryan admitted it was a mistake for him to name captains, adding that there will be no captains in the future.
Holmes angered teammates by being publicly critical of the offensive line and Sanchez. The locker room imploded at the end of the season, but owner Woody Johnson claimed in a recent interview that Holmes is "one of the best players we've ever had here."
Johnson insisted the Jets' desire to retain Holmes had nothing to do with the guaranteed money, and they believe he will rebound in 2012. Holmes will have a new receiving partner (Plaxico Burress, a free agent, won't be back) and a new coordinator, Tony Sparano. Holmes clashed with the previous coordinator, Brian Schottenheimer.
It would be naive to believe money wasn't a factor. As one person familiar with the team's thinking said recently, there were "8 million reasons" to keep Holmes. Now it's 15 million.
Rich Cimini covers the Jets for ESPNNewYork.com.