In a stunning deal struck at close to midnight, the Jets acquired former Super Bowl Most Valuable Player receiver Santonio Holmes of the Steelers in exchange for a fifth-round pick in next week’s draft.

PHOTOS: Santonio Holmes

Holmes, 26, was a first-round pick of the Steelers in 2006, and made the winning catch in Super Bowl XLIII, winning the game’s MVP award. He caught nine passes for 131 yards and the touchdown, which came with 35 seconds left in regulation against the Cardinals.

Despite Holmes’ brilliance on the field, his legal problems played a major role in his ouster from the Steelers. He faces a civil suit from a woman who accused him of throwing a drink at her at an Orlando nightclub on March 7. He reportedly faces a four-game suspension for a potential violation of the NFL’s substance abuse policy.

Holmes was arrested in October, 2008, in Pittsburgh and was cited by officers for possession of marijuana. He was suspended by head coach Mike Tomlin for one game, but returned to play the remainder of the season, capping the year with a brilliant performance in the Super Bowl.

The Jets declined comment late last night on the trade, but a league source confirmed that the team would send a fifth-round pick to the Steelers in this year’s draft.

It’s the second major trade of the off-season by Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum, who earlier acquired Chargers cornerback Antonio Cromartie, who also has legal problems. Cromartie has been hit with at least five paternity suits in the last two years. Cromartie told reporters last month he has seven children in five different states, although he indicated he has worked out financial arrangements for child support.

Holmes addresses a need at receiver for the Jets, who wanted to add another target for second-year quarterback Mark Sanchez. Starters Jerricho Cotchery and Braylon Edwards return for the 2010 season, but the Jets wanted to add depth at the position. They certainly have a breakaway threat in Holmes, who recorded a career-high 79 catches for 1,248 yards last season. He added five touchdowns.

The Jets began their receiver upgrade last season, when they acquired Edwards in a trade from the Browns. He is a restricted free agent this season, although he hopes to receive a long-term extension from the Jets.

Strictly from a talent perspective, Holmes is a major upgrade at receiver, although it remains to be seen whether he faces any disciplinary action from the league for his latest legal problems. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who personally expressed hope after the Steelers’ Super Bowl win that Holmes had turned the corner, is in the process of reviewing his case.

Holmes was a schoolboy start at Glades Central High in Florida, helpingf the team to state titles in his sophomore and junior seasons. He went on to star at Ohio State, earning a starting job late in his red-shirt freshman season. He finished fifth in school history with 140 catches for 2,295 yards, and was third with 25 touchdowns.

More football news

Newsday LogoSUBSCRIBEUnlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months