CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- In need of a big man, the Charlotte Bobcats reached agreement Tuesday on a three-year offer sheet with Cleveland restricted free agent Anderson Varejao, giving the Cavaliers a week to match the deal or lose him.
A source close to the Cavs told ESPN.com's Chris Sheridan that Cleveland plans to match the offer sheet, meaning Varajao should be back in a Cavs uniform toward the end of this week.
ESPN The Magazine's Ric Bucher reported the offer sheet is worth $17.4 million, which would fit the Bobcats' mid-level salary cap exception.
According to ESPN.com's Chad Ford, the offer sheet includes an opt-out clause after year two, meaning Varejao could become a free agent again in the summer of 2009.
Varejao's agent, Dan Fegan, could not immediately be reached.
Cavaliers general manager Danny Ferry said in an e-mail to The Associated Press they
wouldn't decide whether to match the offer until they received the
document from the Bobcats.
"It will probably arrive tomorrow and then we will make the
appropriate decision," Ferry said.
The 6-foot-10 Varejao has been in a prolonged contract dispute with the Cavaliers, who had offered him a deal worth approximately $20 million over three years.
This is probably the best deal either the Cavs or Varejao could get.
Varejao didn't want to sign a long-term deal that he felt was below his market value. The Cavs didn't want to overpay.
Given this deal, if Varejao is as good as he believes he is, he'll have another shot to get big money in the summer of 2009.
And if the Cavs bring Varejao back and he continues to be just a role player, the team didn't do anything to harm its long-term cap position, because Varejao will be a free agent in 2009 or 2010.
The question remains, however: Will the Cavs match?
It appears so. If the Cavs were willing to offer him a 5 year, $32 million deal, why not sign him for 3 years, $17 million?
Sure, there is bad blood between Ferry and Fegan, because of these negotiations. But Ferry has said the Cavs want Varejao back, so expect to see him soon in Cavs wine and gold.
-- Chad Ford
"I wanted to come back," Varejao told Ford last week. "I love the fans and I really love my teammates. But there are others there that have made it very difficult. It's gotten to the point that I don't want to play there anymore. I'm just hoping for a sign-and-trade at this point."
The 25-year-old Varejao averaged 6.8 points and 6.7 rebounds last season in helping the Cavaliers reach the NBA Finals for the first time.
Asked if he expected to see Varejao back with the Cavaliers,
coach Mike Brown said, "I hope so. He's a talented player. He's a
Ferry told Ford last week that the team still wants Varejao back.
"We fully understand that negotiations can be emotional," Ferry said. "As for Anderson's potential to remain a Cavalier and put this behind us, we value his presence in this organization, on and off the court, and that has not changed."
Bobcats coach Sam Vincent has been pleading for a big man since the beginning of the season. The Bobcats lost Sean May to season-ending knee surgery in training camp.
"We're excited about the opportunity to add a player of
Anderson's caliber to our team," Vincent told The Associated Press. "We feel like he's
a guy who can come in and give us some immediate help in the
Starting center Primoz Brezec has been ineffective and was replaced in the middle by power forward Emeka Okafor -- with rookie Jared Dudley starting at forward -- Monday night in Toronto. The Bobcats lost their sixth straight.
Before training camp opened, Varejao turned down Cleveland's one-year, $1.2 million qualifying offer. If he had signed that deal, the former second-round pick could have become an unrestricted free agent after this season.
In late October, the Cavaliers rejected a six-year, $52 million package presented by Fegan.
The sides last spoke over the weekend and were considering having another meeting, but Bobcats then stepped in with their offer sheet and Varejao's side decided to sign it.
Varejao is known for his energy and defense, and the move comes a day after Vincent questioned his team's focus and preparation following the 98-79 loss to the Raptors.
The Bobcats, with 15 guaranteed contracts, would have to release a player to add Varejao if the Cavaliers don't match the offer.
"Anderson has established himself as a very good young player
in this league," Bobcats general manager Rod Higgins said. "We
look forward to the opportunity to add him to the core of our
franchise as we continue to grow and improve."
ESPN Insiders Chad Ford and Chris Sheridan, ESPN The Magazine senior writer Ric Bucher and The Associated Press contributed to this report.