Richard Jefferson's decision to opt-out of the final year of his deal that was set to pay him $15 in 2010-11 certainly raised some eyebrows a few weeks ago. Why would a player who has entered the "precipitous decline" phase of his career turn down a cool $15 million for the uncertainty of free agency? Well, the rationale Jefferson and his agent gave was that he wanted to sign a long-term deal now, before a new CBA will presumably limit such deals. That makes a bit of sense, but it didn't seem likely Jefferson would recoup the money he turned down, right?
Turns out, maybe Jefferson knew exactly what he was doing. According to Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News, Jefferson has come to terms with the Spurs on a four-year deal worth up to $39 million; the last year is only partially guaranteed. The year-by-year breakdown is as follows: Jefferson will receive $8.4 million in 2011, $9.3 million in 2012, $10.2 million in 2013, and $11 million in 2014, although it's not clear how much of that last season is guaranteed.
From the Spurs' perspective, they have cut nearly half of what they owed to Jefferson for the upcoming season, though it came at the cost of paying Jefferson exorbitant amounts for at least two more years. Considering how much Jefferson struggled this past season picking up San Antonio's system, it's puzzling to say the least why they'd throw even more money at Jefferson, with a contract that will pay him until he's 34 years old.
As for Jefferson, securing an additional $12-24 million for the next four seasons is a coup for a player whose game relies on his diminishing athleticism.
For more on Jefferson and the Spurs, check out Pounding The Rock.