NEW YORK (AP) – Santonio Holmes is staying put, eager to keep catching passes from Mark Sanchez in big games for the next several seasons.
A person with knowledge of the deal told The Associated Press on Wednesday that the New York Jets have agreed to terms on a five-year deal with the flashy wide receiver, who was regarded as the top player at his position among this year’s free agents.
Holmes was also considered the Jets’ main priority once the free agency period started Tuesday after the NFL lockout ended after 4 1/2 months Monday. And, New York went to work quickly on making sure they kept one of Sanchez’s favorite targets.
The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the team has not announced the deal. Teams can’t officially sign free agents until Friday. Financial terms weren’t immediately available.
On Twitter, Holmes thanked other players who congratulated him on the deal. He also retweeted a post by fellow Jets free agent Antonio Cromartie, who said: “Congrats to @santonio10 on his new deal…that’s what I’m talking abt. Good friend and excellent teammate.”
Holmes, acquired last offseason from Pittsburgh, had 52 catches for 746 yards and six touchdowns for the Jets and established himself as the go-to guy he was while with the Steelers. After returning from a four-game suspension to start the season, Holmes quickly developed a rapport with Sanchez, who said Tuesday he was willing to restructure his contract if it helped the Jets go after free agents.
While it’s unclear if any restructuring by Sanchez or any player was done, the Jets were aggressive in bringing Holmes back. They are also reportedly in talks with Oakland cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, who is regarded as the top overall free agent available.
New York entered the free agent period with 16 unrestricted players, including Holmes and offensive lineman Wayne Hunter, who agreed to terms on a four-year deal on Tuesday. The Jets might also be turning their attention to wide receiver Braylon Edwards, who had 53 catches for 904 yards and seven touchdowns this last season.
“Congrats to @santonio10 Great player and good friend!” Edwards wrote on his Twitter page.
Edwards has said he wants to remain in New York, but it was thought the Jets would need to choose between him and Holmes because it would be unlikely they could afford to keep both.
“It was such a luxury to have both of them last year,” Sanchez said. “It’s almost unrealistic to have that kind of a receiving corps again. Whichever guys we get back, it’s going to be them playing really well, and me getting even better.”
Meanwhile, Edwards was due in court in Cleveland on Wednesday to find out whether he broke his probation there by driving drunk in New York City.
Holmes, 27, was acquired from Pittsburgh last April for a fifth-round pick — an incredibly low price for a former Super Bowl MVP. But Holmes had some off-field issues, and the Steelers were finished with him despite the fact he was coming off a season in which he set career highs with 79 catches and 1,248 yards receiving.
There was a lawsuit in Florida from a woman who claimed he threw a glass at her, cutting her above the eye. He was arrested in 2008 for possession of marijuana and involved in a domestic violence incident in 2006; the misdemeanor charges were later dismissed. He was also accused of telling a fan to “kill urself” on his Twitter page, but implied that his account was hacked.
After coming to the Jets, a flight attendant claimed Holmes failed to follow regulations as the plane he was aboard landed in Pittsburgh. He also was forced to sit out the first four games of this season for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.
General manager Mike Tannenbaum acknowledged that the Jets were taking a risk, but insisted it would be worth it. And, he was right.
Holmes was a big-time playmaker in the clutch, helping lead New York to its second straight AFC championship game. Holmes played key roles in three straight wins with big catches late in games, prompting coach Rex Ryan to call key moments “Tone Time.”
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)