The capital Ufa, Russian region’s second largest city of the Volga River area of Bashkortostan isn’t about 1200km away from Moscow. “colors of an old Beirut” conjures up vivid memories of the old Souks of old, brightly colored tents bathed in rich Persian carpet, where merchants would set up their stalls for the day selling just about anything and everything. In some cases, the vendors would not even come out of the tents, but instead would walk along the edge of the banks of the river to sell their fresh fruits and vegetables to the hundreds of vendors who would line the banks of the many streets. Throughout the afternoon, you’d occasionally see a few men on horses going by…
As the sun begins to heat up, so does the energy of the players and the fans who would be lining up to get some freshly picked oranges, pears, apples, or whatever was in their store that day. Suddenly, out pops an unknown vendor in a bright red suit, waving an orange bright enough to make the player’s eyes pop out of his head. “This is UFA,” he says, pointing to one of the tents just across the street. “Welcome to the United Free Agents.” The vendors quickly unpack their goods and set to work displaying them on the colorful tents that line the banks of the street in front of the UFA headquarters.
The contract signing that follows is another example of how the world of UFA works. Before the player signs the contract, the team captain (who plays in left field) and several other restricted free agents are given the chance to negotiate their own contracts, just as any other restricted free agent would. Once a deal is sealed, the team captain will throw a ceremonial ball directly at the free agent’s head. If it lands in the restricted area, the restricted free agent has to decide whether to sign the contract or run like the wind.
This all sounds pretty complicated, but it actually isn’t. Signing an entry-level contract is a simple process when you understand how UFA and RFAs (restricted free agents) work. Just like with any other type of contract, a player signs an entry-level UFA contract, then meets the criteria for an elite player status (or elite player status for a specific team if he’s on one) and then meets the salary requirements. After the team captain signs an entry-level contract, he’s eligible to play in the leagues premier competitive leagues, such as the NFL and theigue league, until he signs his three-year or five-year contract with an NFL club. Players on the exempt list are also subject to signing one-year contracts, but are not required to play in the NFL.
A player who receives an offer sheet from a league club but doesn’t sign the offer sheet by the end of his round one season may become subject to evaluation for eligibility to become eligible for a big free-agent contract following his senior year. If a player receives an offer sheet that is counter-signed by his college coach, he becomes subject to the draft rules. One example of this would be if a college basketball player signed an offer sheet but didn’t sign an NBA contract by the end of his junior season. If he signed with an NBA team on his junior season, he’d need to wait three years to become eligible for an NBA contract.
So, what happens when a player signs a UFA contract and then decides he wants to go out and get a two-year, four-year, or five-year NBA contract instead? First, his three-year or five-year commitment to an NCAA scholarship will count towards his total four-year or five-year NBA deal. If he was offered a two-year, four-year, or five-year contract instead, he would have to wait four years in order to receive an NBA contract. So, he decided to go out and get an NBA contract now instead. The new contract gives him the same number of years he had committed to the university as his three-year or five-year commitment, but he’ll have to play two more years. Although the player may have waited four years in order to receive an NBA contract, he is subject to the NBA draft rules after his contract expires.
Kevin Martin is another example of a young athlete with an offer sheet from a well known college program, who ultimately decides to go out and get an offer sheet from a different program. He has played very well at the Division-I level, earning All-American status and All-conference first-team honors as a senior, but he decided to go into the NBA draft instead of getting an offer sheet from UFA Europe. Kevin Martin is still eligible to play for UK. He’s earned a lot of hype recently, even being named AP Player of the Year, but it appears he’s still not ready to sign an NBA contract. It seems as though he may have made up his mind already, but this decision could become very costly for UK if he does decide to leave.
You can build your NBA career, just like Kevin Martin, by going to great college programs with great coaches. Unfortunately, very few programs are willing to provide top-notch coaching to players who don’t make the college level. But you can learn how to be a great guard from a college coach who was great at developing great guards. If you go to a great college program and get an offer sheet from a good coach, then you should go out and get an offer sheet from a good European coach, too. Even if you don’t make the NBA, you’re still better off than if you wait four years to get an offer sheet from a good European coach.