WNBA Free Agency Lists and Analysis, courtesy of WNBAlien

Tired of waiting for the WNBA to provide their fans with any free agent information, WNBAlien is here to step into the void. Teams had to make qualifying offers to their players by January 15th, and we’re now in the period where teams are allowed to talk to players but not officially sign them. Signing opens on February 1st. So we’re going to go team by team with an analysis of each franchise’s own free agents, and take a look at who they might be pursuing on the open market. All free agent information is solid and accurate (whereas all postulation as to who teams might pursue is supposition and educated guesswork). Before we get to that, here’s an explanation of the terms that are thrown around during the WNBA free agency period.


Unrestricted free agent – player is out of contract and free to sign wherever she chooses.

Restricted free agent – player is out of contract, and can negotiate with anyone, but her existing team retains the right to match any deal she signs with a different franchise.

Reserved – a player ends up reserved when she’s out of contract but hasn’t been in the league long enough to earn free agency. She can sign for anything up to the maximum salary, but she is only allowed to negotiate with the team that holds her rights.

Cored (or core designation, or coring) – this is the WNBA’s effort to help teams retain their key players. It’s similar to the NFL’s ‘franchise’ tag, for those more aware of that league’s system. Each franchise can core one player (almost always an unrestricted free agent), which guarantees that player a one-year offer at the league’s maximum salary, but blocks her from negotiating or signing with any other team. The sides are also allowed to negotiate a longer deal at any value from the minimum to the maximum. The franchise’s core designation is then tied to that player for the length of that contract, assuming she stays with the franchise. For example, if Erika de Souza signs a three-year deal this offseason, Atlanta won’t be able to core anyone else for the next three years unless she’s traded, waived, or retires.

Offer sheet – restricted free agents can sign an offer sheet with a different franchise, and their previous team then has the choice whether to match (including all terms and salary numbers) or let her leave for nothing.

Salary cap (and cap space) – each team has to fit their total player salaries under a cap, which in 2012 is $878,000. There’s also a minimum that they have to spend, which is $759,600 this year (although if a franchise doesn’t reach it, they simply pay out the balance to their eligible players).

Maximum salary (or max-deal) – the most one player can earn in the WNBA, which in 2012 will be $103,000, or $105,500 for veteran players that re-signed with their own teams (another league effort to keep stars with their existing franchises).

Minimum salary – the minimum varies depending on experience in the WNBA. In 2012, it’s $37,260 for players who’ve played two years or less in the league, $54.000 for those who’ve played three or more.


Feel free to ask below in the comments section if there is any confusion or additional terms that I’ve left out.


13 comments on “WNBA Free Agency Lists and Analysis, courtesy of WNBAlien

  1. David says:

    Good job. This so much easier to understand than the actual CBA 😉

  2. Coleen says:

    Question about “reserved” player. How many years in the league to obtain free agency? If she can only negotiate with the team that holds her rights, then what happens if they don’t want her? If they don’t want her does that mean they have waived her and then no one holds her rights? Also by holding her rights, I suppose they can trade her and she accepts the deal or doesn’t get to play but the original team then still holds her rights?

    • If you’ve been in the league three years or less and you’re out of contract, you’re reserved (assuming your existing team makes the qualifying offer). It’s usually pretty rare with American players, because rookie-scale contracts for drafted players are four years long (assuming teams take up their options). The player would either have to go undrafted and then be picked up, or be waived from her rookie contract and then picked up again later after passing through waivers. So a lot of reserved players tend to be overseas players who show up for a year or two and don’t come back (although there’s an unusual number of Americans this year).

      The qualifying offer that a team has to make in order to make a player ‘reserved’ or ‘restricted’ is in itself a contract offer. If the team doesn’t make that offer, the player automatically becomes an unrestricted free agent (for example, Phoenix declined to make the qualifying offer to Sidney Spencer this year, giving up her restricted rights and making her an unrestricted free agent). So the player always has the option of simply signing the qualifying offer (which is a one year deal at the applicable minimum salary) – which is what I believe Jessica Adair did yesterday. If at any stage the team withdraws the qualifying offer, the player immediately becomes an unrestricted free agent.

      Exclusive negotiating rights (i.e. what a team holds when a player is reserved) can only be traded with the player’s written consent. So she can’t just be traded around without agreeing to it, but beyond that a reserved player doesn’t have much of a negotiating position. The only real threat she has is – “pay me what I’m worth or I won’t show up to play at all”.

      Hope that all made sense. It was probably rather more detail than you were looking for ;).

  3. Coleen says:

    NO, it was good. I think at one time I had known some of this but just don’t keep up. I should do my own research instead of depending on others, but some of you just have it down so pat, it makes me lazy. Thanks for taking your time to inform me.

    OT; I have asked this on reb’s and have now forgotten, If you have time to tell me, I am going to make a note so that I remember. Top places to play overseas = Russia and Turkey? then Czechoslovakia, then how does spain, italy, austria fit in and are they all part of the euroleague? How does playing in Israel compare? Australia? I am wondering where the money is and where the top players go? If you don’t have time, ignore this.

    Oh, and I like your site, must take much time and effort.

    • Apologies for how long I took to reply to this. The answer is complicated. A lot of countries in Europe have a couple of top teams who have a sponsor or owner willing to pay high wages so their team can compete in the EuroLeague (which is the cross-continent competition that only includes the top 1/2/3 teams from each national league). So if you’re a Taurasi, a Bird, a Fowles etc. you’re probably playing for one of these loaded teams who’ll stroll through most games in their domestic national leagues at the weekend, then play in midweek in the EuroLeague against top teams from other countries.

      As of right now, Turkey and Russia are probably the top leagues in terms of overseas talent, but it’ll be an upset if the finals of their playoffs are anything other than Galatasaray-Fenerbahce and UMMC Ekaterinburg-Spartak Moscow – which illustrates that even now they’re top-heavy. After that, leagues like Spain, Italy, France, Israel are probably in the next tier, with the likes of Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and many others below that. Non-European leagues like Australia and China are even harder to categorise because they’re whole separate systems, but you don’t see too many WNBA-level players going to places like that.

  4. DAMIAN says:

    Why not Laimbeer get Deanna Nolan, Cheryl Ford, Janel McCarville and Quanitra Hollingsworth to join the Liberty?

  5. […] then the core designation cannot be used again until that contract expires. Here’s a good plain-English assessment on this from […]

  6. […] then the core designation cannot be used again until that contract expires. Here’s a good plain-English assessment on this from […]

  7. […] then the core designation cannot be used again until that contract expires. Here’s a good plain-English assessment on this from […]

  8. […] then the core designation cannot be used again until that contract expires. Here’s a good plain-English assessment on this from […]

  9. […] then the core designation cannot be used again until that contract expires. Here’s a good plain-English assessment on this from […]

  10. […] then the core designation cannot be used again until that contract expires. Here’s a good plain-English assessment on this from […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s