Mike Tannenbaum realizes he took a risk by trading for Santonio Holmes. After all, within hours of Sunday's late-night transaction, the Jets learned Holmes must serve a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy.
But Tannenbaum's vision for Holmes goes beyond the looming punishment, and it explains why dealing a measly fifth-round pick for a former Super Bowl MVP will be worth that chance.
"We understand that there's risk, significant risk," Tannenbaum said Monday. "At the end of the day, we felt like the price was reasonable and the risk was reasonable. We understand that there's obviously been some significant issues in the past. We're going to move forward together. We felt, 'Hey, here is an opportunity to improve our team, to get a 26-year-old receiver who is a dynamic playmaker who has had some indiscretions.' The pros outweighed the cons."
A can't-miss deal? Far from it. As gifted as Holmes has been on the field, he has been a mess off it. He was arrested in June 2006 on a domestic violence and assault charge involving the mother of one of his three children. He was suspended for a game in October 2008 after an arrest for marijuana possession. He faces a civil suit from a woman who accused him of throwing a drink - and the glass - at her at an Orlando, Fla., nightclub on March 7. And now the four-game ban, which means he has been a repeat offender of the NFL's substance-abuse policy.
And then there is the question of whether Holmes will upset team chemistry, especially after the Jets decided not to bring back locker-room leaders Thomas Jones, Marques Douglas and Jay Feely. But in this case, the risk-reward element tilts decidedly in the Jets' direction.
For starters, they're getting one of the most talented receivers in the league. Holmes developed into a star in Pittsburgh, producing the game of a lifetime in Super Bowl XLIII with a nine-catch performance that included the winning score in the final minute. Last season, he had a career-high 79 receptions for 1,248 yards and five touchdowns.
I go back to something former Giants general manager Ernie Accorsi often said when deciding whether a player was worth the risk: "If you're going to take a chance, take a chance on talent as long as there is a competitor's heart in the soul of that talent."
With Holmes, the talent clearly is there. But another former Steeler, Plaxico Burress, had all the talent in the world when the Giants signed him to a free-agent deal in 2005, and he, too, caught the winning TD in the final minute of a Super Bowl. But within a year, his career in New York, and possibly the NFL, was over after he brought an unlicensed gun into a New York nightclub and it went off, sending a bullet through his leg. He is in prison paying for that ill-fated moment.
"I'm accountable for my actions, and I'm willing to accept what has happened and move forward," Holmes said Monday. "I understand my position. To go back down that same road and make the same mistakes won't be accepted around here."
No, they won't, especially in the crucible of New York. But I do believe there is a chance for Holmes to make the most of his second chance. One big reason is because he now plays for a coach in Rex Ryan who has the moxie to take risks with players others might fear.
"When his name came up, Rex didn't blink twice," Tannenbaum said. "I think when you look at Rex's ability to relate to people and connect with players, he's really outstanding at that. He's done that his whole life, his whole career. I think as a head coach, it puts him on a bigger stage, but he has a very unique ability to connect to a lot of different types of people."
Ryan had no problems fitting in another controversial receiver - Braylon Edwards - last year, even though Edwards had his own legal entanglements. It's not unreasonable to think Ryan can do the same with Holmes.
If it works out, the Jets will have added a game-breaker with championship-caliber talent.
If not, all it will have cost was a fifth-round pick, a player who probably wouldn't have made the Jets' roster anyway.
All things considered, this move is well worth the risk.