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.