These are the rules under which WNBA teams are now operating, according to a March 5, 2014 document from the league to the WNBPA:
– Teams have from March 10-15 to make qualifying offers and core player designations. If a core qualifying offer given to a player who would otherwise be a restricted free agent is withdrawn after March 13 and before March 31, a restricted qualifying offer may be made within 48 hours of the withdrawal.
– If not previously withdrawn, a qualifying offer of any type shall remain open until March 31. Restricted qualifying offers made on or after March 14 shall remain open until April 7, 2014.
– If a team does not make the applicable qualifying offer to a veteran free agent by March 15, the player shall become an unrestricted free agent on March 16.
– A veteran free agent shall become either a reserved player, a restricted free agent, or a core player if the applicable qualifying offer is made in a timely manner, and shall be subject to her prior team’s exclusive negotiating rights or right of first refusal.
– From March 16-19, teams may negotiate with their own core players and reserved players, and any free agent who has not been designated as a core player by another team.
– Beginning March 20, teams may enter into player contracts with their own core players and reserved players, and enter into player contracts (AKA offer sheets) with any free agent who has not been designated as a core player by another team.
This is an explanation of common terms of designation:
Free Agency is based on years of service. A player is credited with one year of service for each year she is signed to a Standard Player Contract and is on the active or injured list for any portion of the Regular Season.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
– Any player, not already under contract, with six (6) or more years of service.
– These players are free to negotiate with any WNBA team. They are not subject to a team’s right of first refusal or any team’s exclusive negotiating rights.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
– Any player with four (4) or five (5) years of service.
– If the player’s team makes her a Qualifying Offer, the team retains a right of first refusal with regard to the player.
– The player may then attempt to negotiate with other teams for a better contract (compensation, length, salary protections, etc.).
– Once the player decides which new team’s offer (“Offer Sheet”), if any, she would like to accept, she presents that Offer Sheet to her prior team.
– Her prior team has ten (10) days to match the Offer Sheet.
– If her prior team matches the offer, the terms of the Offer Sheet become her contract with her prior team.
– If her prior team does not match the Offer Sheet, then the player and the new team have a contract based on the terms in the Offer Sheet.
– The Qualifying Offer for a Restricted Free Agent must be for one year and for the greater of:
– The applicable Minimum Base Salary; or
– The Base Salary contained in the player’s last season contract.
– Any player with three (3) or fewer years of service.
– Team must make player a Reserved Qualifying Offer.
– If her team makes a Reserved Qualifying Offer, the player must negotiate exclusively with her prior team.
– If her team does not make a Reserved Qualifying Offer, the player becomes an Unrestricted Free Agent.
– The Qualifying Offer for a Reserved Player must be for at least the applicable Minimum Salary based on the player’s number of years in the league.
– A player may not be designated as a Core Player for more than five (5) seasons throughout her career, except that
– A player who has been designated as a Core Player for five (5) seasons prior to the 2008 season may be designated as a Core Player by the team for which she last played for up to two (2) additional, consecutive seasons beginning with the first season after the expiration of her Player Contract covering the 2007 season.
– A player who has been designated for four (4) seasons prior to the 2008 season may be designated as a Core Player
(1) by the team for which she last played
– Up to two (2) consecutive, additional seasons beginning with the first season after the expiration of her contract covering the 2007 season or
– For one additional season at any time
– By any other team for one additional time
– All Qualifying Offers are for one (1) year.
– No Qualifying Offer can provide for Base Salary protections.
– The qualifying offer is not necessarily the contract a player’s prior team will ultimately sign with the player. Players and teams may negotiate for a salary and for other terms beyond what is contained in the Qualifying Offer. A qualifying offer has to meet the basic threshold based on a player’s status as a free agent and is for a period of only one year. Thus, a player may negotiate with her prior team beyond the initial qualifying offer.
– A player who knows or should have known of a physical disability or other condition (including pregnancy) that would render her unable to perform her contract, may not accept a Qualifying Offer.