Wizards make cap-savvy deal with Webster
The re-signing of Martell Webster makes sense, though some will question the length of his deal and the wisdom of president Ernie Grunfeld.
The Wizards used the full mid-level exception, meaning it doesn't count against their salary cap, to sign Webster to a four-year contract worth $22 million Tuesday. They will have the option to buy him out in the final year which isn't fully guaranteed, so the commitment is actually less than $20 million until further notice.
So why did the Wizards make this move now rather than waiting to use their $5-plus million mid-level exception to sign multiple players such as Webster and Antawn Jamison, a 37-year-old former Wizard who is a free agent and has the ability to be the pick-and-pop power forward they need?
Webster, a 6-8 small forward, had some leverage. He put up a career-bests of 11.4 points and 42.2% shooting from three-point range. He shot 53% with John Wall on the floor. His off-the-court and locker-room demeanor have been exceptional for a franchise that once was marginalized by erratic and unprofessional behavior.
But the Wizards acted quickly in snapping up point guard Eric Maynor with the bi-annual exception (two years, $4 million) on Monday and now Webster.
They also didn't want to wait for the market to get more competitive, which could've driven up the price-tags of both players to a level that would've been impossible for a team that is barely under the salary cap.
Teams such as the Cleveland Cavaliers ($20 million), Dallas Mavericks ($14 million), Detroit Pistons ($29 million), Milwaukee Bucks ($20 million) and Houston Rockets ($16 million) have money to spare and the Wizards can't compete for free agents.
When the Rockets or Mavericks, for instance, who are in holding patterns for the Dwight Howard free-agent sweepstakes, learn that he won’t sign with them guess what happens? A feeding frenzy starts to snap up players such as Webster and Maynor to fill roster spots.
There also is a floor with the salary cap and teams are in violation of the collective bargaining agreement if they don’t meet it. The limit, minus exceptions, was $58 million for the 2012-13 season. The minimum a team had to spend on player salaries was 85% of the cap, or $49.3 million. Those numbers all will be adjusted for 2013-14 and the minimum spent will rise to 90% on player salaries.
The Wizards let point guard A.J. Price leave as a free agent, a person with knowledge of the situation told CSN Washington, simply because the team believes Maynor is a better and more versatile player. Small forward Cartier Martin couldn't stick, either, after an uneven season that was marred by a hyper-extended knee. The Wizards never intended to keep center Jason Collins or Leandro Barbosa, both of whom were acquired in a late-season trade that was designed to get rid of Jordan Crawford.
The last few coins the Wizards have remaining under the cap are targeted to retain Garrett Temple, a 6-6 guard who started 36 games last season, multiple persons with knowledge of the situation confirmed to CSN on Monday. It was Temple’s first full season in the NBA after four years of signing multiple 10-day contracts and accepting demotions to the D-League. Temple was paid a pro-rated salary of the league minimum of $573,000 because he didn't join the Wizards until December when the season was almost two months underway. He'd make a little more than $1 million with a new deal.
So looking at the big picture, Webster’s signing makes perfect sense as long as he holds up physically. He had two back surgeries before coming to Washington and ended last season on the bench because of an abdominal strain.
But consider this: Kyle Korver, an elite three-point shooter like Webster, earned $5 million for the Atlanta Hawks last season and as a free agent now he'll get at least that much. Kevin Martin, a sometimes lethal shooting guard, signed a deal with the Timberwolves on Tuesday that will pay him $30 million for the next four seasons -– an average of $7-plus million per.
That’s the going rate, and neither is a two-way player like Webster who is a far better defender than both.
It’s natural for teams tend to overpay a little in free agency. Some do it by wider margins than others. But I'd hardly would rate Webster among them. Given that teams benefit from young players having their salaries depressed by a rookie scale system, it’s a fair trade off in the end. Players who are vested such as Webster who'll be entering his ninth season, get more of the spoils as they should.
How much would Wizards shooting guard Bradley Beal command in the open market if not for the scale system? Certainly much more than the $4.3 million he'll earn next season.
If the Wizards had low-balled Webster on the offer -– he produced on a one-year, $1.6 million deal last season -- he could've waited to re-sign, left everything in limbo, bolted for another team and the Wizards would've be left empty-handed after the big spenders scooped up the best free agents.
The Wizards avoided haggling and uncertainty with the waiting game, which can actually become far more costly by leaving them holding an empty bag.