Eric Bledsoe is the top free agent still available on the market at this time, but it’s not necessarily his skill set or extremely high asking price that’s keeping teams from coming at him with a realistic offer for his services.
Bledsoe is a restricted free agent, which means the Suns have the right to match any offer he receives — and that complicates things, somewhat substantially.
In the early days of free agency, teams are leery of signing players with Bledsoe’s status to offer sheets because those cap dollars can’t be spent elsewhere while the Suns take up to 72 hours to decide whether or not to match. Other available players get gobbled up during that time, and at the end of it all, the team that went out and extended the offer sheet may have nothing to show for it if the player’s current club ends up matching.
Bledsoe remains unsigned, and Phoenix seem to be in no hurry to do so. He knows it’s all part of the process, but still feels like the Suns are using restricted free agency to their advantage.
“First off I’m going to let my agent Rich Paul handle it,” Bledsoe said, while attending a “Ball Up” street ball tournament in Birmingham. “I can understand the Phoenix Suns are using restricted free agency against me. But I understand that.”
Bledsoe can be seen making these remarks on video, and he doesn’t come across as angry or bitter about the way things have unfolded. But he is absolutely right.
It’s unclear just how close Bledsoe may have gotten with other teams on an offer sheet, but honestly, the Suns would like nothing more for him to sign a four-year max offer from another team. That would get them out of having to discuss a five-year deal near the max, which is what Bledsoe and his agent have been pushing for at this stage of the negotiations.
Bledsoe does have a sort of nuclear option with all of this if he’s truly bothered by his situation. He could play next season on a one-year qualifying offer, and then pursue life as an unrestricted free agent the following summer, when he could sign with anyone of his choosing, and without the Suns being able to interfere in the slightest.
But Bledsoe has had injury issues that have limited him in two of his four NBA seasons, and can’t really afford another one in a contract year without any future financial security in place. The Suns are offering four years, $48 million, but Bledsoe’s team is looking for the full five-year, $80 million max. Someone has to give in at some point, but because Bledsoe is accurate in his assessment that Phoenix has the rules of restricted free agency on its side, it probably won’t be the Suns.