Eric Bledsoe (Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports)
The fractured relationship between restricted free agent Eric Bledsoe and the Phoenix Suns might be irreparable after all. According to ESPN’s Chris Broussard, it’s “looking like” Bledsoe will take the unprecedented step of accepting the Suns qualifying offer for the 2014-2015 season and try his hand at unrestricted free agency next summer.
— Chris Broussard (@Chris_Broussard) August 5, 2014
Bledsoe and the Suns remain far apart in contract negotiations despite most of free agency’s dust having settled – he’s seeking a five-year, $80 million maximum contract and Phoenix has countered by offering him $48 million over four years. If he accepts the qualifying offer, Bledsoe will earn just $3.8 million this season, a salary approximately $10 million below one most would consider reasonable for a player of his caliber.
Qualifying offers are mostly uncharted territory in the NBA. Only 17 players have accepted a QO since 1995, and no member of that group is Bledsoe’s talent or value equal. Current Orlando Magic guard Ben Gordon comes closest, and actually benefited from taking the Chicago Bulls’ QO in 2008 – he signed a five-year, $58 million deal with the Pistons the next summer.
Bledsoe is surely hoping to walk a similarly prosperous path should he make good on his threat. If he has a big season, there’s a definite chance he’ll receive the contract he wants in July 2015. The question is whether or not the risk of playing on such a paltry salary is worth it. There’s a reason no player or prospect of his stature has ever exercised this option; they’ve all decided doing so was indeed too big a gamble.
Bledsoe stands to lose tens of millions if he accepts the qualifying offer and suffers a serious injury this season. Health concerns are arguably the biggest reason no team felt comfortable extending him a max-level contract in restricted free agency. No matter how well he played before this unfortunate theoretical took place, it’s hard to believe the 2015 market would value a further damaged Bledsoe more than this summer’s despite his status as an unrestricted free agent.
Unless he’s so disgusted with the Suns that he’s considering boycotting the season entirely, there’s just too much financial risk for Bledsoe to perform on a QO. Young players need to strike while the iron’s hot. A $48 million contract might not be scorching, but it’s certainly warm.
So this seems like a bluff from Bledsoe’s camp, and it’s a smart one. Phoenix couldn’t trade him if Bledsoe accepts the QO and thus would surely lose him for nothing next summer. If the Suns really believe Bledsoe has intentions of taking this drastic measure, it would be in their best interest to sweeten their offer.
But Phoenix knows the risk that accompanies playing on a qualifying offer, too. It’s unlikely GM Ryan McDonough and company will buy Bledsoe’s ruse. This chess game, basically, will likely continue despite Broussard’s report.
And the most likely scenario remains the sides agreeing to terms on a multi-year contract in coming weeks. For now, though, the Bledsoe-Suns soap opera has taken another interesting turn.
(H/T Hoops Rumors for RFA information)
Do you think Bledsoe will actually sign a qualifying offer?
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