The latest news (I use that word in the most liberal sense) in the negotiations between the Phoenix Suns and Eric Bledsoe suggests that he might be considering taking the qualifying offer.
Here's a quick recap of the timeline to date:
Our buddy Chris Broussard (through sources, what else) kicked off the pyrotechnics on July 17th by suggesting that the Suns were offering Bledsoe a four year, $48 million contract while his agent, Rich Paul, was thinking more along the lines of five years, $80 million. At this point everyone was sure that the $32 million gap would be easily bridged over a picnic lunch.
Surprisingly, that didn't happen.
On July 26th Eric made his first public statement regarding the negotiations. It really wasn't a statement, but more of a terse response to a direct question asked by a reporter during a street ball tournament in Birmingham, AL (Eric's hometown).
First off, I'm going to let my agent handle it. I can understand the Phoenix Suns are using a restricted free agent against me, but I understand that.
How that is to be interpreted is open to speculation. It was a brief answer and Eric isn't the most verbose or eloquent speaker.
Three days later (July 29th) a story by Chris Haynes of Comcast SportsNet depicted a much more grisly situation. Apparently a source with knowledge of the negotiations (one of those guys) provided his take on the state of affairs.
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."
The express lane part was pure gold.
Now the rhetoric was pumping up, with suspicions that this was intentionally leaked to the media (stuff like that has been known to happen) to put the screws on the Suns.
The Phoenix Suns rejoinder came in the form of a Robert Sarver impromptu radio appearance on the Burns and Gambo radio show on Friday, August 1st.
At this point contract negotiations were basically happening under the eye of public scrutiny rather than in private between the parties. Sarver himself confirmed the previous reports of the contract offered to Bledsoe (four years, $48 million) and deemed it a fair offer (which it probably is). Sarver described the relationship as being much more cordial than the previous Chris Haynes report.
He also said the Suns would be "more than happy to sit down with him and continue to negotiate it."
Unfortunately, that tells me that there were no ongoing negotiations except for those being done in plain sight...
Which brings us to Chris Broussard's tweet today (Tuesday, August 5th).
Looking like qualifying offer. Relationship w/Phx going n wrong direction"@kevininzunza31: @Chris_Broussard Any news on Eric Bledsoe Chris?"
— Chris Broussard (@Chris_Broussard) August 5, 2014
Leaked information? More posturing?
Certainly, this situation seems unsettling. With both sides apparently lobbying to win the court of public opinion and more frustration and enmity (supposedly) emanating from team Bledsoe the two parties seem to be at an impasse (for now).
These situations can be fickle.
The threat of Bledsoe taking the qualifying offer (not that he's actually made that threat) has serious implications for both sides. It would be a blight on the Suns image around the league and put them in a position to potentially lose a very valuable piece for nothing next summer. If Eric takes the QO the Suns can't trade him without his approval.
However, Bledsoe's gambit has the potential to blow up in his face. The QO would only guarantee him $3.7 million for the upcoming season. That's a serious risk given the inherent nature of injury being a part of the game, especially with Bledsoe's own history.
Not only that, but long term Bledsoe can't really earn much more than the offer the Suns currently have on the table.
If Bledsoe does take the qualifying offer he will have to a) stay healthy and b) play like an All-Star to earn a contract that will meet or exceed what he can get guaranteed from the Suns right now. That's a huge gamble. One might call it an insanely idiotic gamble. Not that I'm calling it that, just that one might.
For it to get to that point there would have to be serious animosity from Bledsoe towards the Suns. Neither side benefits from this type of situation at all. It's lose, lose.
Here's what I think we know.
Eric is not going to accept the Suns four year, $48 million deal.
The Suns are not going to offer Bledsoe the five year, $80 million contract he is apparently seeking.
Eric can't possibly be audacious and reckless enough to take the qualifying offer (can he?).
Which means there are two likely scenarios.
The Suns and camp Bledsoe will find a middle ground. If the Suns upped their offer to four years, $56 million that would already surpass Bledsoe's maximum earning ability if he takes the QO. The sides could also agree to a deal with less years.
Eric Bledsoe's agent finds a team that will offer more than the QO, potentially on a two year deal
with a player option* that would at least give Eric a little more security than the $3.7 million he could be facing. A sign-and-trade could also enter the discussion if things do get to (or are at) the irreparable state they are (supposedly) headed to.
Now we can wait for the next salvo to be fired in this saga. It seems like each haymaker has around a three day shelf life, so expect more news Friday. Most likely it will be more of that liberal sense type of news I referenced earlier.
*The only way for Bledsoe to become an unrestricted free agent next summer is to take the qualifying offer. Any deal that he signs would have to include at least a two year commitment.