When the Hawks meet with Joe Johnson in Los Angeles soon after the start of the free-agency negotiating period at 12:01 Thursday they are prepared to offer him a six-year contract for the maximum amount allowed, according to people with knowledge of their plans.
The exact amount of maximum contracts won’t be determined until a league audit is completed over the next week, but it’s expected to total about $119 million for a player with Johnson’s experience. The other teams making pitches to Joe can only offer him five years at about $92 million. I still believe that a gap of up to $27 million or so will be too much for Joe to turn down regardless of what other teams have to say about teaming up with LeBron or Bosh (or both), earning more in endorsements, or anything else not having to do with $27 million.
As a Bird-rights free agent, Johnson is eligible to receive from the Hawks a six-year contract starting at about $15.8 million with maximum raises of 10.5 percent in each year (the raises are based on the first-year salary and don’t compound). Keeping in mind that the numbers are not finalized, the year-by-year breakdown of the contract would look something like this: $15.8 million in 2010-11, $17.5 million in 2011-12, $19.4 million in 2012-13, $20.8 million in 2013-14, $22.4 million in 2014-15 and $24.1 million 2015-16. Joe would be 34-years old during the final season of the deal.
Before you ask, I’m wearing my beat writer’s beanie and keeping my opinion on this move to myself. Bret LaGree at Hoopinion . THHB at Peachtree Hoops and atl_hawk_luv at Hawks Str8Talk all offer reasonable takes on why they don’t like a max deal for J.J.
In analyzing this for yourself, keep in mind that the Hawks wouldn’t have the cap flexibility to find a comparable replacement for Joe in free agency. So if you want him gone, it means accepting that the Hawks probably wouldn’t be as good without him in the short term (LaGree and atl_hawk_luv explained why they think that’s OK). Also remember that if Joe accepts the deal and continues to produce at his current level for a couple years he could be a very tradeable asset in the future; his contract wouldn’t necessarily become an albatross.