Santonio Holmes: 'I want a contract'

SOMERSET, N.J. -- Even though he has a lot riding on the outcome of the NFL's labor dispute, New York Jets wide receiver Santonio Holmes said Saturday his pending free-agent status is "one of my least favorite concerns." But that doesn't mean he hasn't formed strong opinions.

Holmes, in his first interview since the end of the season, said he won't sign his one-year tender if he's deemed a restricted free agent -- which would be his status if the 2010 work rules are used for the 2011 free agency period.

"I want a contract, flat out," Holmes told two reporters at a sports memorabilia show in Somerset, N.J., where he appeared with teammates LaDainian Tomlinson and Antonio Cromartie. "If I sign a contract, it will be for multiple years. It won't be for one year."

As a player with five years' experience, Holmes would be one year shy of unrestricted free agency under the 2010 rules. Previously, all it took was four credited seasons to hit the open market. For Holmes, who would be one of the most coveted free agents, the potential difference between unrestricted and restricted is huge.

The Jets protected themselves in the event the 2010 rules remain by placing the highest restricted tender on Holmes, first- and third-round picks -- their compensation if they were to lose him. The one-year salary for that tender is $3.5 million, nearly six times what he made last season. Nevertheless, Holmes, 27, feels he has earned a long-term deal.

"I played five years to wait for my sixth year to come up," said Holmes, who was traded by the Pittsburgh Steelers last offseason because of off-the-field issues. "I don't want to play for a one-year deal. I wouldn't do it."

Holmes is one of several key unsigned players on the Jets. The group includes wide receiver Braylon Edwards, multipurpose weapon Brad Smith and Cromartie, who declined an interview request.

The Jets could've used their franchise tag on any of those players, but they opted to designate linebacker David Harris.

Prior to the lockout, the Jets indicated their desire to retain Holmes, but they didn't say if they'd be willing to do a long-term deal. He's the No. 1 priority among their free agents, according to sources, but it's possible they may want to retain him on a one-year deal, if possible. That's what they did last offseason when Edwards was in the same situation. It would be cheaper and it would buy them another year to evaluate Holmes, who missed the first four games last season because of a substance-abuse suspension.

Interestingly, Holmes didn't state that his goal is to re-sign with the Jets. He said he will take a wait-and-see approach, saying, "Whatever my agent brings to the table, the best deal for me, I'm pretty sure that's where I'll end up."

Asked if he'd re-sign with the Jets if the offers are equal, Holmes replied, "That's a tough question right there. I'm going to leave that one undisclosed. I don't know right now."

Holmes was a clutch player for the Jets, finishing with 52 catches for 746 yards and six touchdowns in 12 games. He started building a rapport with quarterback Mark Sanchez, but as he noted, "I was building something in Pittsburgh and I got released."

Reminded that he was traded, Holmes shot back, "I got released, I didn't get traded."

Holmes laughed off a recent report that said he was luxury-apartment hunting in Manhattan, an account that fueled speculation that he had made up his mind to re-sign with the Jets. He said he'd never spend $6 million to live in an apartment, and that his search that day was to "entertain the fans" on a TV show.

"I don't know what the odds are of me staying a Jet or moving on," he said.

Holmes also commented for the first time on the controversial remarks he made after the Jets' loss to the Steelers in the AFC Championship Game. He wasn't on the field for the first few plays, and seemed angry in the locker room, giving an "ask the coaches" response when questioned about it. It appeared to be a shot at offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer.

Well, he was angry. Very.

"I was being critical of not starting in the game," Holmes said. "However anybody wants to take it, whoever it was taking a shot at, that's that. I was being critical of not starting in the AFC Championship Game and I was frustrated. I was very upset that I didn't play for 10 plays. It probably made the biggest difference in how we played."

Rich Cimini covers the Jets for ESPNNewYork.com. Follow him on Twitter.