Every summer, there is always a marquee free agent or two, usually restricted, that holds off from signing a contract for a while in hopes of getting a bigger one. That’s totally normal. This summer, those two free agents were Greg Monroe of the Detroit Pistons and Eric Bledsoe of the Phoenix Suns. Monroe’s situation has been resolved (for now), as he signed the one year qualifying offer with Detroit and will be an unrestricted free agent next year, where he will be free to sign with any team.
But what about Bledsoe?
It has been almost two and a half months since free agency opened, and there is no news on Bledsoe. He and the Suns are not close on a contract, and reportedly haven’t even talked for months. The Suns offered Bledsoe a deal worth $48 million over 4 years, while Bledsoe wants the max contract, which would be approximately $90 million over 5 years. While is value is probably somewhere in the middle, neither side is willing to explore that middle ground, and neither is any other team, as no one has bit in the Suns’ attempt to sign-and-trade him.
So what’s the deal with him for this upcoming season?
Currently, it is believed that Bledsoe wants to join LeBron James in Cleveland (they share the same agent), and would accept slightly less than the max to play there. But for that to happen, Cleveland would likely have to trade Kyrie Irving, and that isn’t happening.
With that said, Bledsoe’s options are limited. No other team is willing to offer him the max, and no one will do it: if a team wanted to do so, they would have done so already. Conversely, if Bledsoe was willing to accept less than the max, he would have notified Phoenix of that a while ago. So we’re at a classic standoff.
There is only one thing certain as of right now: the relationship between Bledsoe and the Suns is so strained that it is highly unlikely he will be a member of the Suns on opening day in the 2015-16 season. I don’t envision any scenario where Bledsoe signs a long-term contract with the Suns after what transpired between the two sides this offseason. However, with no other suitors that are interested in signing Bledsoe, the most likely scenario is that Bledsoe follows Monroe’s footsteps and signs the one-year qualifying offer. Under this scenario, he would play out the season in Phoenix, and then become an unrestricted free agent next summer. At that point, he would be free to sign to with any team. Unless his relationship with Phoenix rapidly improves this season, he will be suiting up for another team next season with a new, fat contract.
But for now, here’s my advice to Bledsoe: sign the qualifying offer. It’s obvious no one is paying you a max contract right now, so sign the qualifying offer, work hard to improve your game, and cash in next summer. If your game improves enough, someone out there will pay you upwards of $15 million per year next summer. Then, you might look smart for holding out. Right now, you just look like a fool.