The Suns are using restricted free agency against Eric Bledsoe.
That’s no secret. It’s a reality of the situation.
Bledsoe knows this, which surely leaves him feeling a little helpless as July turns to August and he remains unsigned.
I feel for Bledsoe, who’s in a tough spot, but he’s not the first restricted free agent to get stuck, and he won’t be the last. The Collective Bargaining Agreement sometimes gives teams a lot of leverage over players, and this is one of those cases.
There’s nothing to do except whine.
Really. That can actually be a solution.
If the Suns think Bledsoe is unhappy enough, they might offer a bigger contract in order preserve harmony and keep Bledsoe devoted to winning. An employer paying to keep its employees happy is not unreasonable.
So, Bledsoe or his agent, Rich Paul, or someone else in Bledsoe’s camp is pushing this angry agenda.
According to league sources, an “ominous development” has arisen with sides still “very far apart” in contract negotiations. It has even escalated to the point where the “relationship is on the express lane to being ruined,” a source with knowledge of the situation informed CSNNW.com.
The Suns offered Bledsoe a four-year, $48 million deal with declining salaries each year, two sources said. That proposal was quickly turned down. Bledsoe’s camp is putting a max price tag on the player Suns Head Coach Jeff Hornacek called “a Top-10 player in the NBA in coming years”, another source said.
However, the effort by the Suns to undermine Bledsoe’s market is what has angered Bledsoe and his reps and led to a standoff in which the relationship is now on the verge of being irreparable, we’re told.
Other teams that are/were in the process of dealing with their own restricted free agents (Utah, Detroit, Houston) chose not to use the public scare tactics this summer, another factor that has Bledsoe feeling chilly at the thought of a return to the desert, sources say.
The difference between a four-year max contract and a $48 million contract is $14,965,420 – a hefty chunk of change.
Unfortunately for Bledsoe, he has little recourse here.
The Suns are well within their rights to dissuade teams from signing him to an offer sheet. The Jazz actually threatened to match any Gordon Hayward offer (which they did), and the Pistons have sent softer signals for Greg Monroe.
If Bledsoe doesn’t want to accept $48 million, he could always accept the $3,726,966 qualifying offer. That one-year contract would make him an unrestricted free agent next summer, though he’d be extremely underpaid this season.
It also screws the Suns, who couldn’t trade Bledsoe without his consent. If he’s forced to play so far below market value, you think he’s rushing to approve deals that help Phoenix?
So, there’s incentive for both sides to work toward a more-amicable solution.
Bledsoe could try to persuade the 76ers, the only team with enough cap space remaining to offer him a max offer sheet, to offer one. Or he and Phoenix could engage teams about sign-and-trades.
And of course, both Bledsoe and the Suns can continue negotiating with each other, trying to bridge that $14,965,420 gap.
Maybe they compromise with Bledsoe taking less than the max per year but signing for few than four years and/or receiving a player option. That would limit Bledsoe’s safety net, but set him up for a bigger payday later.
Of course, Bledsoe wants it all, and the best way to get that is to threaten the Suns with extreme unhappiness.
So, that’s what he – or someone on his behalf – is doing. The next step is seeing how seriously Phoenix takes these complaints.