During Jason Quick's interview with Larry Miller, the topic of a qualifying offer for Greg Oden was discussed, with Miller saying that "at this point, I don’t see us not giving the offer if Greg is doing the things we need to see him doing to get back on the court." This statement has prompted a lot of talk about the topic, here on BlazersEdge, on other message boards and even on local talk radio. I thought it might be helpful to review what is known about qualifying offers and how it relates to Greg Oden's situation. So after the jump, I'll try to cover the basic facts but also give my own opinion on the matter.
Under the current Collective Bargaining Agreement, a qualifying offer is a one year contract made by a team that is tied directly to restricted free agency. With some free agents, teams have a choice - make a qualifying offer and have the player become a restricted free agent or choose not to make a qualifying offer and have the player become an unrestricted free agent. There are three categories of players that are eligible for restricted free agency:
1) Players who are drafted in the 1st round that are completing their 4th year of a rookie scale contract. For these players, the amount of their qualifying offer is a designated % of their 4th year contract amount (the % differs depending on the player's draft position and is established in an exhibit to the CBA).
2) Players who are drafted in the 1st round that were signed to a contract other than a rookie scale contract, whose contract has expired and who have 3 years of service or less in the NBA. For these players, the amount of their qualifying offer is the greater of two figures: 125% of their previous salary or player's minimum salary amount for the next season plus $175,000.
3) Players who were not drafted in the 1st round, whose contract has expired and who have 3 years of service or less in the NBA. For these players, the amount of their qualifying offer is the greater of two figures: 125% of their previous salary or player's minimum salary amount for the next season plus $175,000.
A team must make the qualifying offer by June 30th in order for a free agent to be designated as a restricted free agent starting on July 1st. As mentioned earlier, the qualifying offer is a contract for one year only. The team can withdraw an unaccepted qualifying offer without the player's approval up until July 23rd. After this date, the qualifying offer cannot be withdrawn without the player's approval. If the qualifying offer is withdrawn, the player immediately becomes an unrestricted free agent.
The benefit of restricted free agency is that it gives the team the right to match any offer sheet that the player receives from another team (as long as the team has either enough cap space or an exception large enough to match).
Essentially, there are five results that can be achieved if a player has been given a qualifying option and become a restricted free agent:
A) The player can sign the qualifying offer and remain with his previous team for the amount of that one year contract.
B) The player can sign a different contract with his previous team (more or less money for one or more years). In this case, the qualifying offer is replaced by the new contract.
C) The player can sign an offer sheet with another team and have his previous team match the terms of the offer sheet. In this case, the player remains with his previous team and the qualifying offer is replaced by his new contract.
D) The player can sign an offer sheet with another team and have his previous team choose not to match the terms of the offer sheet. In this case, the player joins the new team and the qualifying offer is nullified by his new contract.
E) The player can choose to not play in the NBA for the upcoming season (retire, play for another league, etc.).
There are other details about qualifying offer that are covered in Question #37 of Larry Coon's FAQ on the CBA if you want to read more about the subject, but these are the basic aspects of restricted agency and how it is linked to qualifying offers.
Now, as it relates to Greg Oden, he is eligible to receive a qualifying offer before June 30, 2011 as he was drafted in the 1st round and is completing the 4th year of a rookie scale contract. The amount of his qualifying offer is set by the CBA at
30% 130% of his 2010-11 salary, or $8,788,681. If the Blazers choose not to make this qualifying offer before June 30th, then Oden will become an unrestricted free agent.
What if the Blazers choose to make this qualifying offer? Well, then things become a bit trickier, as it is assumed that the NBA owners will choose to allow the CBA to lapse after June 30th. The exact terms of Greg Oden's restricted free agency will be determined by the next CBA agreed upon by the league and the Player's Union. Thus, there is a chance that restricted free agency might look differently. However, it is my personal opinion that terms of restricted free agency - at least as how it relates to Oden's situation - won't change much, if at all, in the new CBA. Again, that's just my opinion, but my best guess is that once a new CBA is ratified, if Oden is given a qualifying offer then one of five results will be possible:
A) Oden will sign the one year qualifying offer and become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season
B) Oden will sign a different contract with the Blazers - probably for more than one year and for more than the $8.79 million total of the qualifying offer (eg., 2 years for $12 million, 3 years for $16 million, etc.)
C) Oden will sign an offer sheet with another team that is matched by the Blazers
D) Oden will sign an offer sheet with another team that the Blazers choose not to match
E) Oden will choose to leave the NBA (retire, join a European team, etc.)
One other important note about the qualifying offer. I have heard numerous people on the radio over the last 24 hours say that if Greg Oden signs the qualifying offer, he can then be traded as an expiring contract. This is true but with a major restriction. He can be dealt - but Oden would have the right to veto any such trade. In other words, while he is playing under the terms of the qualifying offer (or any other one year contract with the Blazers next year), he could not be traded without his expressed consent to the deal. This is due to the CBA rule about trading players with a one year contract whose team will have Bird rights or Early Bird rights at the end of the year - such players cannot be traded without the player's consent.
Finally, let me conclude this post with a few words about my own opinion. First of all, it would appear from Larry Miller's statement that the organization has not decided to cut ties with Greg Oden today. I applaud this decision. Why would the organization try to make a decision today that does not need to be made for 8 months? In June, it might come to pass that the Blazers decide not to make a qualifying offer for one reason or another. But why should they close the door today on that option? I am a big believer in keeping options open and it would appear that the Blazers are approaching this situation with the same perspective. For that I am glad. Fans and talk show hosts can afford to react emotionally, pro sports organizations cannot afford the same luxury.
Secondly, let me continue to espouse the opinion that the Blazers should continue to approach the coming year with the hope that Greg Oden will be part of the team at some point in the future. Call me an unrealistic optimist if you will, but I am not yet convinved that Greg has passed the point where he will never again be a productive player for the Blazers. My expectations are certainly tempered by this recent development, but as saddened as I am by what has happened, it does not compare to the idea that the Blazers might invest yet another year's worth of finances, time and effort into helping Greg rehabilitate only to see him walk away with no compensation to become a member of another team.
Anyway, that's where I'm at today. If you have any questions about all of this or if I've left something out of this post, please help me (and the others here at BlazersEdge) by making that known in the comments. The point behind posts such as this are to get the facts straight so that we can engage in intelligent dialogue about the subject.