Charlotte Hornets forward Miles Bridges has signed a $7.9 million qualifying offer for the 2023-2024 season, clearing the way for him to become an unrestricted free agent next summer, his agent, Rich Paul of Klutch Sports, told ESPN on Sunday.
With talks stalled on a new deal, Bridges' decision to end negotiations and stop pursuing an offer sheet or sign-and-trade deals as a restricted free agent set up the possibility that the Hornets could lose a 20 points-per-game scorer without compensation next year.
After signing the qualifying offer, Bridges, 25, has veto power over any trade this season.
Bridges' negotiations were complicated by a felony domestic violence arrest and a plea of no contest that led him to miss the entire 2022-2023 season. Bridges has a 10-game NBA suspension awaiting him to start Charlotte's season.
Before his arrest a year ago centering on a case of domestic violence against the mother of his two children, Bridges had been a restricted free agent on the cusp of a $100 million-plus deal. The NBA's suspension, handed down in April, was for 30 games, but the league decided that 20 of those had already been served in his lost season.
Bridges was accused of assaulting his then-girlfriend in front of their two children in May 2022, and he was arrested a month later. He pleaded no contest to a felony domestic violence charge in November. As part of a deal with prosecutors, he was sentenced to three years' probation. The no-contest plea meant Bridges was accepting the conviction and punishment without formally admitting guilt.
Bridges had a breakout season in 2021-2022, averaging 20.2 points, 7 rebounds and 3.8 assists and he helped Charlotte advance to the Eastern Conference play-in tournament. The Hornets had planned to make Bridges a franchise cornerstone along with guard LaMelo Ball, but that became murkier in the aftermath of the domestic violence case.
Charlotte has wanted to bring back Bridges on a new contract, but Bridges' side didn't believe there would be the progress necessary to reach what it believed was still his market value.
Ball agreed to a five-year, maximum contract that could be worth $260 million on Friday night, his agent told ESPN. The Hornets are still negotiating with restricted free agent forward P.J. Washington on a new deal for him.