Players who have completed three years of their rookie contract are eligible for an extension with that team. After a fourth season, they are restricted free agents. Which means if their franchise makes a qualifying offer — a one-year contract for 125 percent of the player’s previous salary, which in Jackson’s case would be somewhere in the neighborhood of $2.8 million — they are free to sign with any team, but the original team has the right of match that offer.
But this summer, two players with qualifying offers — the Suns’ Eric Bledsoe and the Pistons’ Greg Monroe — haven’t even signed as restricted free agents. It seems clear that their motive is unrestricted free agency as soon as possible. That could be the motive of the 2011 class, too.
Playing out their rookie contracts for five years without signing an extension would make Jackson and his classmates totally free in summer 2016, when the NBA’s television contracts with ESPN and TNT expire, and they are expected to mushroom in value. Which means the payroll cap will rise, and salaries will rise, and anyone who is free in summer 2016 (which includes Durant, sorry to bring it up) will reap the benefits.
Of course, it’s a gamble. Tear up a knee or bust a leg, and all of a sudden a franchise isn’t so quick to want to pay a guy $14 million a year. It’s risk/reward.
The Thunder would prefer to lock up Jackson this offseason, but that’s not likely. It’s possible that Jackson plays for a contract in each of the next two seasons in Oklahoma City, which generally motivates a guy rather well, although if Jackson already wasn’t given his full focus and energy, Presti misread that DNA.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.