Maybe the impasse between restricted free agent Eric Bledsoe and the Phoenix Suns is insurmountable after all. All recent momentum has been trending against the dynamo guard returning to the desert, including Bledsoe’s belief that the Suns are “using restricted free agency against” him and that the sides are apart several million dollars per season in contract negotiations. The least encouraging sign of a reunion, though, might be team owner Robert Sarver’s recent remarks that the Phoenix front office brass hasn’t talked to Bledsoe in several months.
In a report by azcentralsports.com’s Paul Coro, Sarver says that the Suns still hope to talk with Bledsoe and agent Rich Paul about signing a longterm contract before the season. However, he also acknowledges the possibility that Bledsoe could make good on his threat of taking the drastic, unprecedented step of accepting a one-year qualifying offer and testing the waters of unrestricted free agency next summer.
Six weeks into free agency, Suns Managing Partner Robert Sarver expressed how he still wants to sign Bledsoe to a long-term contract with the Suns. He also just wants to be able to talk to Bledsoe.
“We value Eric as a player,” Sarver said. “I hope at some point we’ll be able to sit down and meet with those guys and make a deal…”
“Maybe that’s just posturing and negotiating,” Sarver said of the reports. “We haven’t heard from the guy in four months, so I couldn’t tell you. I do know that when he played here, he felt good about the organization, his coaching staff and his teammates at the end of the season. We had the same feelings toward him…”
“Hopefully, at the end of the day, Eric comes here and does a contract,” Sarver said. “If that doesn’t happen, then he’ll be here for a year and we’ll have a year to figure it out on both sides.”
Bledsoe was left between a rock and a hard place when he didn’t receive the maximum contract offer he so publicly sought in the opening days of free agency. With competing teams unwilling to meet those steep demands and the widespread knowledge that Phoenix would match any sheet he signed, it makes sense that Bledsoe is left without an offer he deems acceptable more than six weeks into the negotiating process.
Sarver’s contention that the Suns “haven’t heard from the guy in four months” still deserves a grain of salt, though. Phoenix has clearly communicated with Bledsoe’s camp this summer given multiple reports of the team extending him a four-year, $48 million contract offer. It’s not uncommon for players to leave financial negotiations of all kinds almost entirely to their representation, either. That the Suns haven’t talked to Bledsoe specifically doesn’t mean their relationship with him is as doomed as it appears on the surface, but it’s certainly not a sign of imminent harmony, either.
Bledsoe and the Phoenix front office both have leverage: the former’s threat of the qualifying offer and the latter simply letting him take that dangerous route to a multiyear deal. There are positives and negatives for both sides here, but the most pertinent angle is that less risk lies with the Suns’ position. If Bledsoe really does accept the qualifying offer, Phoenix will still have the inside track on retaining him, as Sarver notes above.
All of which is to say that the Suns remain in the driver’s seat. Let’s see if Bledsoe is brave enough to continue riding shotgun.
Will Bledsoe sign a longterm deal with Phoenix before the season?
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