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CBA Roundtable: Restricted Free Agency

Mar 21, 2014; Phoenix, AZ, USA; The two players hurt most this year by the current restricted free agency rules: Eric Bledsoe (2) and Greg Monroe. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

 

Hello and welcome to another edition of the CBA Roundtable. We at Mid Level Exceptional have been talking about restricted free agency and the rules behind it since the moratorium and the process played a major role in shaping this summer from Chandler Parsons and Gordon Hayward signing huge offer sheets to the market drying up for Eric Bledsoe and Greg Monroe.

Rather than focusing on the past, this roundtable focuses on how to enhance the rules governing restricted free agency to create a better framework for the players, teams, and the league as a whole.

 

Ryan Weisert (@Spectavius):

I think the easiest fix is to reduce the allowed response time for the incumbent team. Restricted Free Agency would be so much more fun if the turnaround time on match / no match decisions was shortened. Plus, the offer sheet team would only have their cap space tied up for 24 hours instead of 72. That would make teams more likely to sign players to offer sheets without fear of missing out on some other player.

 

Jared Dubin (@JADubin5):

Right now, it is too difficult for franchises to lure restricted free agents away from other teams without overpaying. Smart teams have figured out a few tricks — frontloading or backloading contracts, inserting trade kickers and other incentives, etc. — but for the most part, any RFA whose team publicly insists it wants to bring him back has too big a leg up for any other team to consider making an offer. This is why Eric Bledsoe and Greg Monroe are still sitting on the market right now.

I like Ryan’s idea of limiting the waiting period to 24 hours instead of 72. This both puts pressure on the home team and gives the offering team a bit more leeway when it comes to chasing other free agents.

I would also suggest allowing the offering teams to bid more money than home teams if the player actually hits restricted free agency. Because the home team has the dual advantage of the ability to offer an extension the year prior to the player hitting restricted free agency, and also having matching rights if the player makes it to restricted free agency, the player should be able to chase bigger offers elsewhere if he does not get an extension before the end of his rookie deal.

I would propose allowing the offering team the ability to give 7.5% raises throughout the contract if a player makes it to restricted status and limiting home teams to offering 4.5% in a straight deal if they allow the player to hit restricted free agency without signing him to an extension. Combine this with still allowing the home team the ability to match 7.5% raise offers the player gets in RFA. If the offering team knows it can offer more than the home team, it may be more likely to think it can pry the player away. And this way the player can get his 7.5% raises no matter what, even if the home team lets his dangle in FA before signing an offer sheet.

 

Seth Partnow (@WhrOffnsHppns):

I agree with Jared that the restrictions are too, well, restrictive. Certainly in today’s era of instant communication across multiple platforms, the 72-hour time period for matching an offer sheet is simply too long. The costs (or at least perceived costs) of sacrificing cap space for that period of time dissuades many suitors from even entering bids.

However, the aspect of restricted free agency which to me causes most of the kludginess is actually how limited the rights of a player’s current team can be. If a player signs an offer sheet, they either match or let him walk. Under this stark binary, an acquiring team is virtually forced to overcompensate the player in some way, whether with higher salary, a trade kicker or some other form of consideration. This is required because the existing team either retains an asset at a not unreasonable price or loses him for nothing.

Perhaps allowing the existing team more flexibility in terms of negotiating a sign-and-trade with the offering team, or even setting forth mandatory compensation to flow either from the acquiring team or from the league itself (perhaps modeled in some way on Major League Baseball’s compensation system) would soften the blow of losing a player to the point where a team actually had a decision to make whether to match a reasonable contract or not. If there were more reason to expect the present team might not match, perhaps teams would become a little more aggressive in pursuing these players.

 

Ryan Weisert (@Spectavius):

Just to chime in here, I think the baseline of all our arguments is that we want to see the rules changed to encourage more action and less waiting, right?

 

Daniel Leroux (@DannyLeroux):

Ryan, pretty much though there are a few other changes I would like to see.

While I understand why the owners want to stack the deck to ensure that they have the right to retain the players they draft or acquire for their first two NBA contracts, the balance still tilts too far in the favor of the original team.

Right now, the major flaw in the CBA is not the restricted free agency system itself but the combination of the limitations on extensions and the RFA rules. Think about non-first round success stories like Draymond Green and Jeremy Lin. Players like them are never allowed to sign extensions in their restricted years because their contracts never hit the four year minimum length required to be able to have that available. They have to hit the restricted market and deal with rules that excessively narrow their market.

I absolutely love Jared’s idea of changing the maximum raises and decreases to 7.5% like it is for when teams retain their own free agents but would even it to that across the board rather than take it away from a player’s current team. That rule in combination with the year restriction on signing another team’s player makes it so original teams can skirt too much money if they would rather duck the risk of full raises and years. The only other modification I would make on that point would be to only have Early Bird and Full Bird free agents have the ability to sign 7.5% raises with other teams since they are the ones entitled to them in normal situations.

Beyond that, the length of the waiting period makes some sense because it limits tentative teams but strong, smart teams can still wield it to their advantage. Under the current rules, we have seen quality talent like Omer Asik, Chandler Parsons, and Jeremy Lin change teams using restricted free agency. Cutting it down to 48 hours would be fine but not required.

I have more of an issue with the minimum length of contracts in restricted free agency. When a player gets a qualifying offer, another team’s offer sheet must be for at least two years not counting options. That goes up to three years for someone on a max qualifying offer, not that I can recall any player turning down the gigantic maximum qualifying offer. This longer minimum length allows teams to duck a short-term, large per-year contract that would give a player the flexibility. Imagine if Eric Bledsoe could sign a LeBron Special of a one year max with a player option for the second year. I bet Phoenix would have been more active negotiating with him ahead of time with that possibility looming.

 

Thanks again to everyone for participating and feel free to join the conversation in the comments, by e-mailing us at [email protected], or on Twitter.

Daniel Leroux

Daniel Leroux has covered the Golden State Warriors for five seasons for RealGM, starting during his final year of law school. He was born and raised in the Bay Area and has a bachelor's in Economics from UCLA (Go Bruins!) and a law degree from UC Hastings college of the law. He also hosts the RealGM Radio podcast.

2 Comments

  1. I’m not a fan of restricted free agency. I’m not for a fan of a lot of the restrictiveness in North American sports. Let the players choose…it will work itself out.

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