It ain't easy being a restricted free agent. This is the tedious and tenuous reality Drew Gooden is now going through.
Many of you have e-mailed me asking about Gooden recently looking for an update. There's been no news coming out about it. His agents have stopped taking phone calls from me and the Cavs aren't commenting, either. So I'm going to break down the situation as I see it for you, point by point. As of this moment, of course. Hopefully you'll see why this is taking so long.
1. The Cavs are probably standing very firm on a contract offer. My guess is they have probably offered a deal that starts a little higher than the mid-level exception of $5.3 million available to all teams. I'll guess it starts in the $6 million range. That would be a five-year deal worth about $38 million or six years and about $45 million should he sign for the maximum length. The Cavs feel this is fair because it is more than any other team can or will offer him in the current market.
2. Gooden doesn't have negotiating position since no teams with cap space likely have interest in him. If Gooden were to sign some mid-level deal somewhere, the Cavs would gladly match. His agents were hoping to get a sign-and-trade going, but so far there has only been smoke and the Cavs don't have to be cooperative.
3. Nene got six years and $60 million, it sounds as if Al Harrington is going to get six years and $57 million. Gooden is hoping to get as close to that as possible, because he feels he's comparable to both players. Statistically he has a point, so you can see the gap here.
4. Drew's one-year qualifying offer is $5.3 million, ironically the same as the mid-level. His agent has told me playing it out is a realistic option. Now, that would be bad for the Cavs because they wouldn't be able to trade him without his permission and would risk losing him for nothing. That is unacceptable.
Judging by history, it might not be a good decision for Drew either. Players like Stromile Swift, Michael Olowokandi, and Vladimir Radmanovic have done this in recent years. They got their unrestricted free agency as they wanted and all switched teams after their one-year deals. But all signed for the mid-level exceptions the next year. Since I believe the Cavs are offering over the mid-level right now, Drew would seriously risk leaving lots of money on the table.
Just look at Radmanovic. He supposedly turned down a six-year $42 million deal with the Sonics last year (a deal above the mid-level, I might add). He signed with the Lakers this summer, which surely made him happy...but for five years and $31 million. Are we all getting the drift here?
One more point on the one-year option. Sure, Drew could work a sign-and-trade next year or get traded during this upcoming season and sign a huge deal with a new team. But if he says with the Cavs on a one-year deal, it isn't likely he's going to get a chance to have a huge statistical year simply because the way the Cavs play him. So I don't see his value going up. Also, Drew likes playing for the Cavs, why would he want to leave for less money?
5. Drew's agents are smart. Last summer, in my opinion, Ferry overpaid and overextended for free agents. I think we can all agree Larry Hughes getting $70 million was a little much unless he becomes a regular All-Star, which I don't see and I'm a Hughes supporter.
Ferry also gave too many years to Zydrunas Ilgauskas (5), Donyell Marshall (4), and Damon Jones (4). He had to do this to get these free agents to Cleveland. It's a cold-weather city with a bad tax structure and a bad history. I am not blaming him, he had to fire his bullets. But don't think the agents didn't notice, it is their job. Also, don't think they don't see how Dan Gilbert isn't afraid to throw money around. I'm sure they feel if they can find a way to put a little pressure on, Ferry/Gilbert may cave.
So there you have it. Hunker down, it is going to be a continuous struggle. It will be interesting to see which side wins out and whether any mud-slinging goes on before it gets done. It is hard for me to predict what will happen since I don't know the inner-workings. Stay tuned.
If you're bored with Drew Gooden and want more LeBron James -- and who doesn't? -- check out my latest ESPN.com piece. It is lighthearted yet educational.
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