It's almost too simple to explain why Eric Bledsoe and Greg Monroe are dying on the vine. Both entered the summer expecting max-level deals as restricted free agents. Their respective teams, the Suns and Pistons, offered less or perhaps even nothing at all in Monroe's case. Other teams flirted with making big offer sheets to poach the stars, but no squad actually followed through. The players grumbled, the league's free agent money got spent and here we sit.
Phoenix has reportedly offered Bledsoe $48 million over four years. He wanted a max deal, or $84 million over five years. That's a huge difference. There does not seem to be any hope of Bledsoe landing a max offer sheet at this point -- few teams can even swing it, nor do they seem to be interested in Bledsoe at that price. As long as the Suns continue to keep that $48 million offer on the table, there's no reason for Bledsoe's camp to surrender.
The Suns could set a deadline upon which the offer expires if they want to get resolution, but there's really little reason to do that at this point. Another few weeks of stalemate aren't going to exacerbate bad feelings. There's no real rush to make a decision from either side. The die is cast and Bledsoe's bid for a max is failed. The Suns can afford to wait for Bledsoe to admit that, and Bledsoe can afford to wait until literally every avenue is exhausted. For Bledsoe, this situation is both a no-lose and a no-win. It just is.
Detroit's position with Monroe is a bit murkier. We don't know if the Pistons have offered Monroe anything beyond the qualifying offer. The qualifying offer is a one-year deal for a relatively small salary that teams must extend to ensure eligible free agents are under "restricted" status. Monroe's qualifying offer is worth $5.5 million. He can sign it at any time. Doing so would mean he becomes an unrestricted free agent in July 2015. It appears that the Pistons are relying on the market to set Monroe's price. The problem is that the market isn't helping Monroe, at all.
And there's the problem of restricted free agency in a nutshell for players of a certain value: the very process of restricted free agency creates such a huge benefit to the incumbent team that it scares off suitors. Unless you're a no-brainer max player -- neither Monroe or Bledsoe are -- you need to convince a team to spin the wheel on you.
Gordon Hayward managed that, getting a max offer sheet from the Hornets. The Jazz matched, Hayward got paid, and the Hornets were nimble enough to get a potentially better player (Lance Stephenson) on a better deal. If Bledsoe's agent -- Rich Paul of Klutch Sports, better known as LeBron's Agent -- could have arranged for the Hornets to extend that offer to E.B. instead of Hayward, this issue would be resolved. Alas. There are only so many offer sheets to go around.
When we say that NBA teams can control their first-round draft picks for seven years, this is what we mean. Bledsoe is now basically a hostage to Phoenix's offer. The same goes for Monroe. Given his injury history, Bledsoe's best bet now is probably to take the Suns' offer, perhaps with a player option on that fourth year. (That would give him some protection in case of injury, but also an option to hit free agency sooner if he plays up to the deal.)
Given that we have no idea what Detroit's offering, and given that we do not think Monroe actually wants to play with Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings any more, Monroe's best route might be one that two restricted free agents took in 2009. Faced with a dried-up market and no long-term interest from the Knicks David Lee and Nate Robinson reached one-year deals above the qualifying offer in 2009. Lee ended up making three times his qualifying offer, and Robinson also did much better than the QO. A year later, as unrestricted free agents, both players ended up signing healthy deals. (The much taller All-Star's deal was significantly healthier, in fairness.)
The best solution for Detroit and Monroe might be one of those one-year specials. It'd give Stan Van Gundy more time to try to move Smith while letting Monroe make a wage commensurate with his production while getting to unrestricted free agency soon. The fact that the Suns want Bledsoe long-term and that Bledsoe has suffered some serious injuries makes this solution less attractive for both parties. Again, in that case time will solve the issue. But the Detroit stalemate needs a spark, and something like a one-year, $10 million deal that defers cap space and Monroe's real free agency to next summer could do the trick.