Richard Jefferson Opts Out of Contract


In a somewhat unexpected turn of events, Richard Jefferson has opted out of the final year of his contract with the Spurs. This move still leaves the Spurs above the cap, but will undoubtedly ease the financial burden on Peter Holt’s wallet. The Spurs could be looking at a tax free 2010-11.

Why would Richard Jefferson leave 15 million dollars of guaranteed money on the table? He and his agent are no doubt convinced that Jefferson can secure a long term contract which guarantees Jefferson more money over, say, the next 5 years. That is, Jefferson is willing to take a financial hit this season for the benefit of more cash over the balance of his career, especially in light of the next CBA, which promises to reduce player salaries.

From the Spurs perspective, this is a financial blessing. Although, it’s not necessarily a help to the team’s on court success. Richard Jefferson’s expiring contract could have brought back a decent player for the Spurs, and now the team is woefully thin at small forward with only the MLE and LLE at their disposal.

The Spurs maintain Richard Jefferson’s Bird Rights, giving San Antonio the option of a sign and trade or simply resigning RJ to a more modest figure. The Spurs, however, would not want to resign Jefferson at the cost of a steep tax bill. There are a handful of teams–the Knicks come to mind–who might be in the market for a sign and trade piece later this summer.

If I were a betting man, I’d say Richard Jefferson has played his last game for the Spurs. And, more to the point, that the Spurs will easily replace Jefferson’ production with a less sexy player, but one who is a better fit for their system.

  • Nadeem

    I agree. Holt is the real winner here. I am hoping that we use him in a sign and trade to get some good pieces.

    Its also a great day for Hairston!!!

  • BigJ

    Tim, what do you think is management’s reaction to this news? That is the reaction behind the scenes? Not the one in front of the mic which goes, “We’re sad to lose a player of Richard’s talent and wish him the best…”

  • Ian

    I agree with you Tim. Although I was semi-hoping that RJ would play much improved in his second season as a Spur, him opting out does lighten the burden on Holt.

  • Dingo

    Does this mean we can give Splitter more than the MLE now? Either way glad to hear this. Even if we resign him it should be for 50%+ discount IMO.

  • Dingo

    Ignore my previous comment. I reread the post ha.

  • James

    Can someone explain how the Spurs are still over the cap without RJ’s contract ??

  • Timothy Varner

    James, there is a cap line and a tax line. Once a team is over the cap line, they’re limited to “exception” money, rookie contracts, vet mins and Bird deals. Jefferson’s opt out helps the Spurs with tax, but it doesn’t bring them below the cap, which is set at 56 million.

  • Timothy Varner

    @BigJ, Mixed. Happy that they got out from under the onerous burden that is Jefferson’s contract. But I suspect they were hoping to land a player in a trade using his expiring. Plus, now the team is even more thin at small forward. It’s a big problem to fix with limited resources.

  • BigJ

    Thank you Tim. I wondered if it was a bitter sweet moment.

  • PM

    It does bring the Spurs below the cap. However, they will only have 4-5 million under the cap assuming that none of Jewell, Gee, Hairston, etc. are guaranteed contracts. Using that on the free market, they will possibly get a lesser player than Jefferson.

  • James

    Timothy, thanks for the quick reply – I was just looking at the salaries on hoopshype, and saw that we were only at 52.6 million. I didn’t look closely enough to see that this figure is only for the 8 players under contract, and we’ll have to pay for the remaining number to get to the league minimum roster (13 ?). Out of interest, what is the figure for the tax line ?

  • James

    Could this be a case of RJ’s agent not wanting a trade to go down because he would be tagged as “Richard Jefferson’s Expiring Contract” ? :)

  • Jonathan

    Jefferson couldn’t create his own shot, couldn’t consistently hit open threes and didn’t defend well. This should be addition by subtraction. We just need hustle and effort at the 3 spot, especially defensively. Hopefully with the addition of Splitter and subtraction of RJ we can become a much better defensive team this year. In sum, HOOORRRAAAAAYYYYY!!!!

  • Timothy Varner

    @PM, I’ll get the exact numbers but the contracts of Jerrells, Gee, Hairston, and Temple count against the cap. Plus there is a rookie hold on James Anderson’s contract. Moreover, even if the Spurs come in at, say, 1 million under the cap, that doesn’t help them much. Basically, they’re looking at MLE, LLE and vet mins regardless.

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  • Bushka

    The Spurs only get to use the money under the cap or the MLE not both. They can’t use the MLE say 5.6 million if they are 7 million under the cap.

    If they are 4.5 million under the cap they can use the MLE.

    Basically to really wheel and deal they’d need to renounce the rights to all the smaller guys and work on a big deal which isn’t going to happen.

    I really wish we’d have somehow gotten John Salmons when Sacremento was shopping him. Always easier in hindsight but good 3 point shooting solid D and hustle, can create his own shot and doesn’t need to be spoon fed.

  • Timothy Varner

    @Bushka, helpful comment. Thanks.

  • Antonio

    It’s confusing, and here is the bible on the cap:

    One of the things that it often forgotten is that there are “cap holds” for slots that are not currently filled, and they are calculated in various ways. The absolute lowest number are the minimums, so that even if the minimums averaged only 1m, the five extra slots to get to 13 would push the 52.6 to 57.6, which is over the cap.

    Check out Coon’s analysis of the teams in the LeBron sweepstakes:

    I bet the Spurs are in a similar situation regarding the cap that some of these teams are in regards to the number of max contracts – meaning that they can’t realistically get under the cap without giving up assets that they would just have to replace…

  • ldhl89

    I dont know if this a good thing or a bad thing

  • Bushka

    From a basketball standpoint I really believe that Hairston can give us the production RJ gave us last year just as a base.

    Not to mention he has more potential and understands the system better already after his time with the big club and the Toros.

    Hairston needs to have a great summer league and romp into training camp and convince pop. If he can play to his ability he will give the Spurs everything RJ gave them (honestly thats almost like damning Malik with faint prasie), for cents on the dollar.

  • Antonio

    And I forgot all about what I really wanted to say, which is that it seems strange that Jefferson wouldn’t have the confidence to think that a better upcoming year would lead to an even better long term contract than the one he might get right now after such a disastrous year. It seems like now is the worst time to be getting a new deal if he believes that he really has anything left in the tank.


    So does this make the Spurs a player in the 2010 Free Agency Frenzy?

  • duaneofly

    This makes me feel bad for dissing RJ all season, sorry bro, but thank you! :)

  • Ryan

    “So does this make the Spurs a player in the 2010 Free Agency Frenzy?”

    Sign and trade RJ and TP for Rudy Gay and ?. Not saying I’d do it, but its interesting.

    Just a thought.

  • Ted

    Three words this time. Yes, yes, yes! No, four! Hooray!!! This is terrific news for Spurs fans.


  • ali

    RJ is coming back. remember in an interview towards the end of the year. he said if I’m offered four years 40 million thats a situation that I will opt out. he is resigning and lets hope he does, because without him we are going nowhere given the fact that we cant sign another sf

  • Armand

    Anybody sure they are still over the cap? Cap is set at around $56m, but their salary is at $52.

    They could mean they lose their mid-level exception as well too?

  • Armand

    Ronnie Brewer is a possible option? But they will have to save the money for Splitter…

  • spursfanbayarea

    Jefferson will be back at a more manageable salary. I predict 5 year 40 million dollar contract. With lower contract and lower expectations look for Jefferson to have a better year. Adding splitter will also reduce the offense we expect from him. Another thing is having another 7 footer in the paint will make jefferson appear to be a better defender. Both pluses.

  • Chris K.

    Why are we assuming Jefferson wants to leave and/or the Spurs want him to leave? Doesn’t it make basketball and financial sense for the Spurs to sign him to something like a 4 year-$25-30 million deal?

    If the Spurs don’t sign and trade him for something then 1) Holt’s money must be a real issue, and 2) we’re in trouble. You can’t build a winner if you lose assets for nothing.

  • idahospur

    Obviously we know that LeBron, Wade, and Bosh are off the table but what are some potential free agents we can bring in with what we have?

  • BigJ


    Ultimately, even if RJ resigns for a long term deal and stays, or is traded away…it appears to give the Spurs more options than were on the table a few hours ago.

    I call that a good thing.

  • pablo

    i agree that RJ is likely to be resigned, although i hope it’s more of a 4 yr, 30 million dollar contract.

    so if he resigns for somewhere between $6 and $8 million a year, how much money would he save the Spurs this upcoming year? since we are still at the cap without his salary, wouldn’t the Spurs be paying $30 million (his $15 million salary plus dollar for dollar over the cap hit)? if he signs for $7.5 and he saves us $15+ million this coming year right? that’s great!!

    or we could offer a 3-4 year deal at average of $3 million a year to Josh Howard, Matt Barnes, Raja Bell, Adam Morrison, or Quentin Richardson.

  • doggydogworld

    In the same interview where RJ spoke of opting out to get a 4/40 deal he also mentioned his value is higher in a fast tempo system a la Phoenix. I really have no idea if he’ll re-sign here or not. This year may have been a bad enough experience that he just wants out. If he leaves we have no small forward and nothing but the 2m LLE and 1m-ish vet min to sign one. Don’t see how we can “easily replace” him in that scenario.

  • pablo

    i realize previous post was not easy to understand, but i hope message was understood: RJ’s decision saves Spurs money and gives front office options.

    on a side note, i know LeBron has a bunch of leeches around him and “friends” in his ear, but i hope he stays in Cleveland and eventually wins a championship there.

    as for the rest of the FA’s, my bold predictions

    Heat: Wade, Bosh
    Bulls: Boozer, Ray Allen
    Knicks: Joe Johnson, via trade- Amare (with Carmelo joining next year)
    Celtics: Pierce
    Clippers: Rudy Gay
    Mavs: Dirk (although he would look great in Silver & Black)
    Suns: via trade- David Lee and Danilo Gallinari

  • Cuse

    Excellent cap explanations so far. With the LLE, does anyone else think Raja Bell is an option? Same amount that Lakers can offer but more playing time. Plus his ability to hit the weak-side three would be perfect in this offense.

  • Robert

    Although this blindsided us fans and the media, whose to say the Spurs haven’t already been preparing for this?

  • Jim Henderson

    June 30th, 2010 at 6:09 pm

    “So does this make the Spurs a player in the 2010 Free Agency Frenzy?”

    No. It’s only “known” short-term benefit is a saving to the owner on luxury tax.

    It’s potential “unknown” benefit is forcing us to attempt an upgrade at a position that was a weak spot for us last season. That could result from a surprising jump through organic development (e.g., Hairston), or through most likely the LLE, or via a trade of some sort.

    Unfortunately, trading RJ at this point has now lost some value. That’s why I’ve been harping on trading him since the season ended. Hopefully the FO were looking at the GSW’s (and/or other teams) in this regard, but just couldn’t get it done. I’m hoping that we can at least work out a sign & trade with him, but any leverage would only be associated with RJ’s expected future performance (not particularly tempting for most teams, I would think), and not from assuming one of the top expiring contracts (for those wanting to create cap space for 2011). All I know is that we need to get moving on this. There’s gotta be someone that could use RJ, from a more compatible system. It’s not like RJ can no longer play at a decent level. Also, it would be nice to know WHEN Splitter is expected to make his decision on coming over. Is there any procedural delay that I’m unaware of?

    Finally, I’m a bit surprised that RJ opted out. Is there really enough free cap space available around the league for a player like RJ coming off a crappy year? It seems like A LOT of money is going to be used up on signing several MEGA stars, let alone all of the rest of the free agents this year. I think it’s a big gamble on RJ’s part, although the new CBA next year might have precipitated his decision. We do know one thing: he’s never going to get close to 15 mil. per year. Maybe 7-8, if he’s lucky. More likely, he ends up having to play almost three years just to equal this years salary guarantee.

  • Caleb

    I think it’s funny that nobody is considering the possibility that the Spurs will use the money RJ would have gotten to go after someone else, regardless of tax concerns. Parker has made recent comments that he is open to beginning the second half of his career somewhere else. If we sign somebody like Rudy Gay or Ray Allen (somewhat random names) with RJ’s newly freed-up money to a long term deal, and TP leave’s next season, the Spurs won’t be in the tax once Parker’s contract is off the books. Hill will be another year toward being capable of taking the reigns. The front office would have been spending 15 million anyway if not for this miracle. If they commit to spending something close to that figure on someone else, at least they’ve locked in a player for future seasons sans-Parker. This seems to make sense, but then again, spending so much was pretty extraordinary for the Spurs last season. Seeing it again would be downright apocalyptic.

  • td4life

    This makes it harder to land several promising pieces, or that elsuive 4th scorer… considering that the Spurs were disappointed w/ RJ’s output at both ends, and TP’s scoring took a dip, we aren’t looking to “easily replace Jefferson’s production,” we are still looking for that production that he WAS SUPPOSED to deliver LAST YEAR.

    Now we have LESS payroll to try to pay guys to fill that need, not more. We either have his lowered salary figure to trade, or just the exemptions we would have had any way.

    Still, considering we are a long way from true contention, it’s a lucky break for Holt’s wallet.

  • Bushka

    Realistically we don’t get a huge upgrade to our free agency potential, we just save a heap of cash.

    We still have to sign Tiago which will take us past the cap, then it’s down to LLE minimums and possible trades.

    Parker/hill/Ginobli/one of Gee Jerrells etc.

    Timmy, Tiago, Blair, McDyess is your front line with possibly one more vet added as insurance or they bring back Bonner on the cheap as they own his bird rights. (we really need a 5th big and Bonners fine for 7 or 8 minutes a night, we have to have depth).
    The SF slot is going to be Hairston, Anderson or someone that we get in a trade.

    Of all the possible trade picks for a solid SF i’d have to point to McDyess as a viable trade option. He only has a partially guaranteed contract on his last year which makes him an attractive front line fill in around the league somewhere that can be waived cheaply.

  • Cuse


    Not possible when already over the cap.

  • Jim Henderson

    June 30th, 2010 at 6:33 pm

    “Jefferson will be back at a more manageable salary. I predict 5 year 40 million dollar contract.”

    You really want to give RJ a five-year contract?! Why?

    June 30th, 2010 at 6:36 pm

    “Obviously we know that LeBron, Wade, and Bosh are off the table but what are some potential free agents we can bring in with what we have?”

    Okay, here’s a list. Who could we use, who might we want, and who could we afford?

    Player….Team….Status…….Age….Position …2010/Sal
    J. Childress ..Hawks …(R)…….26 …..SG/SF ….3.6 2008
    T. Allen …….Celtics ….(U) ……28 ……..SG.……..2.5
    M. Daniels …Celtics ….(U) ……28 …….SG ………1.99
    T. Thomas ….Mavs ……(U) ……33 …….PF ………825
    J. Petro ……Nuggets ….(U)…….24 ……..C ……….825
    W. Bynum …Pistons ….(U) ……27 …….PG ………825
    A. Morrow …GSW ……..(R) ……24 …….SG ……..736
    C. Hunter …..GSW ……..(R) ……25 ……..C ………632
    R. Bell ……….GSW ……..(U) …..34 …….SG ………..5.2
    S. Blake ……..Clips ………(U) ……30 …….PG ………4.0
    R. Butler …….Clips ………(U) ……31 …….SG/SF …..3.9
    S. Novak …….Clips ………(U) ……27 …….SF ……….1.0
    D. Mbenga …Lakers …….(U) …….29 ……..C …………959
    J. Anthony ….Heat ………(R) ……27 ……PF/C ………825
    D. Wright …..Heat ………(U) …….24 …….SF ………..2.9
    R. Brewer ….Grizzlies …..(R) …….24 ……SG/SF ……..2.7
    S. Hunter …..Grizzlies …..(U) …….28 ……PF/C ………3.7
    M. Williams ..Grizzlies ….(U) …….23 ……SF ………….825
    S. Rodriguez ..Knicks ……(R) …….24 ……PG ………..1.58
    E. House …….Knicks …..(U) …….32 …..PG/SG ……..2.86
    J.J. Redick ……Magic ……(R) ……26 ……SG ………..2.8
    M. Barnes …….Magic ……(U) ……30 …….SF ………..1.6
    L. Amundson .. Suns ……..(U) ……27 ……PF/C ……….855
    A. Johnson ……Raptors ….(U) ……23 ……PF …………3.9

    June 30th, 2010 at 6:49 pm

    “i realize previous post was not easy to understand, but i hope message was understood: RJ’s decision saves Spurs money and gives front office options.”

    It does not give us more options. In fact it reduces the value of the options we already had before he opted out. All it definitively does is save the owner on the luxury tax.

    June 30th, 2010 at 6:51 pm

    “With the LLE, does anyone else think Raja Bell is an option?”

    VERY likely not enough.

    Just to clarify, other than trades, all we have available to sign FA’s is:

    MLE – about 6 mil. (up to 5 yrs., I believe)
    LLE – about 2 mil. (up to 2 yrs., I believe)

    They can be split among more than one player, but cannot be “mixed together”.

  • doggydogworld

    Caleb – the Spurs can’t “use the money RJ would have gotten to go after someone else”. It’s not an issue of luxury tax. Teams at or above the salary cap cannot sign free agents unless they use an exception. The biggest exception is the MLE, which goes to Splitter (if not, we’re doomed anyway). After that you’ve got the LLE (2m) and veteran minimum (1m or so). The type of players you mention are not available anywhere near that price.

  • Bushka

    Caleb they can’t just sign a free agent if they are already over the cap. Since they have to fill out the roster at 15 players regardless those salary spots have a cap hold and yes right now we are I’m assuming at the cap or very near to it.

    If you don’t have space you get to use the MLE if you use the MLE on Splitter that means there is No one you can sign to a contract of great consequence unless you bring them in via trade.

  • Caleb

    A possible depth chart, minus RJ, is hinted at in the Spurs’ summer league roster. Hairston is listed as SG, and Gee is listed as SF. If Anderson starts and Gee comes off the bench (or vice-versa), I concur with the above commenter that the Spurs could easily replace the production they got last season from Jefferson and the backups. Our depth chart could look something (vaguely) like this:

    PG – Parker, Temple
    SG – Hill, Ginobili, Hairston
    SF – Anderson, Gee, Free agent
    PF – McDyess, Blair
    C – Duncan, Splitter, Bonner (or Mahinmi)

    That’s the league-mandated minimum thirteen. And – with Splitter, a healthy Parker, a promising rookie, and a steal in Gee – it still looks like a pretty big improvement over last season’s squad. If we can’t spend big money on a free agent, who is a realistic possibility for the LLE?

  • Bushka

    lol god I wish there was an edit ability!

    What dodgyworld said.

  • Bushka

    Matt Barnes? Doubtful he’d be available at that level.

    Whats the LLE at the moment anyway?

  • Cuse

    I don’t see why the LLE wouldn’t be enough for Bell. He’s 34 so it’s not like teams are going to be throwing money his way. This will be the last stop in his career and there are so many reasons why it would be a good fit. The only downside I see is that the FO goal of getting younger at the position wouldn’t be achieved.

    In which case, I submit a McDyess-Childress trade. Not sure if the numbers work for straight up swap though.

  • Hobson13

    I’m shocked as hell he did this. RJ knows something we don’t. I bet he already has a deal close to being lined up. If not then he is a fool to walk away from $15mil this year. This is a mixed blessing. First of all, Hairston (even though I don’t think he’s exactly the second coming of Andre Igoudala) can reproduce most of what RJ did last year for pennies on the dollar. Where it really hurts our team is in future trades. However, RJ opting out and signing a more reasonable contract may actually force (and help) us to trade him. A sign and trade deal is very likely. I can see RJ signing a 4 year $35 mil contract, but thats about it. All in all, this is good news. RJ has actually forced the Spurs to either sign and trade him or let him walk for free. However, instead of us having to unload his salary of $15 mil (he’s super overpaid) he will be paid much less, which will make him MUCH more attractive to potential trade partners.

    There is a risk involved with this situation. RJ can walk away from a sign and trade deal and the Spurs would get nothing. However, with that said, RJ’s best bet to cash in on this payday by attempting to line up a sign and trade deal.

    Bottom line: RJ opting out may be a HUGE blessing in disguise.