After a long free agency period where little time was spent negotiating, the Phoenix Suns and point guard Eric Bledsoe have finally agreed on a five-year, $70 million contract thanks to talks that heated up during the past week, reports Brian Windhorst of ESPN.
The two sides opened free agency very far apart and hardly talking at all. Suns owner Robert Sarver went on local radio in early August and said the team hadn't spoken to Bledsoe since the restricted free agent left the team in April, but just a week before the team was to begin training camp, negotiations kicked up, according to Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski.
In mid-September, it looked like Bledsoe was headed for a qualifying offer that would pay him $3.7 million this coming year before making him an unrestricted free agent next summer -- a risky move for a relatively unproven player who has dealt with knee injuries in his young career.
That Bledsoe will re-sign means the relationship between the team and the 24-year-old guard isn't as broken as was once reported.
Bright Side of the Sun
Bright Side of the Sun
Instead, it appears the Suns were quite serious about Bledsoe being a part of their dual point guard system led by Goran Dragic. The Suns also added Isaiah Thomas by way of a sign-and-trade this offseason and drafted rookie point guard Tyler Ennis, decisions that now appear less like insurance moves and more like true additions with Bledsoe in place.
Phoenix initially put a four-year, $48 million deal on the table as Bledsoe and agent Rich Paul pushed for a five-year, $80 million max contract. The Suns had leverage on Bledsoe's restricted free agency as the market dried up, and the guard's first and only public comments since the July free agency period opened hinted that he understood the Suns were using his restricted free agency to play hardball.
Bledsoe averaged 17.7 points, 5.5 assists and 4.7 rebounds in 43 games in 2013-14.
He missed the majority of his games with a torn meniscus in his knee that required surgery. It was the second meniscus injury to his right knee -- the injury was related to a first meniscus tear in 2011 that didn't heal correctly -- and may have added to other teams' apprehension in offering him a deal that would have forced the Suns to match. It also helped Phoenix that its front office had been adamant it would match any offer sheet signed by Bledsoe, who was acquired from the Los Angeles Clippers last offseason in a trade.
The Suns can now let off a sigh of relief and move on to getting ready for a season where expectations will be high after last season's success. The front office is reportedly looking into signing shooting guard Zoran Dragic away from his Spanish club. That would help Phoenix in next offseason's big endeavor -- re-signing Goran Dragic once he likely opts out of the final year of his current contract.