We haven’t officially hit free agency (12:01am EST on July 1) but it appears the Bulls have already decided how they want to handle Jimmy Butler as a restricted free agent.
Source confirms Bulls maximum qualifying offer for Jimmy Butler. So it begins
— Vincent Goodwill (@vgoodwill) June 30, 2015
In simple terms, what this report means is that the Bulls have limited what Butler can seek during free agency. The five-year max offer means that Butler can only pursue offer sheets from other teams that are at least three years in length with no options. Mark Deeks explains the rule behind this and why the five-year max qualifying offer is rarely made.
This report means that Butler has three primary options once free agency begins.
Option 1: Take the Bulls five-year max offer of $90+ million and enjoy his time in Chicago for the next half decade. As generous as this offer is, I believe Butler will turn it down because he would be an unrestricted free agent at 30, and is unlikely to get a max-offer at that point in his career.
Option 2: Pursue a three-year max offer sheet from another team. The Bulls can (and will) match this offer. This would be a three-year deal worth approximately $50 million. Butler would become an unrestricted free agent in 2018 when he is 28 years-old. I think this is the route Butler will go.
[RELATED: Bulls' free agency primer]
Option 3: Take the Bulls one-year qualifying offer of $4.4 million and become an unrestricted free agent next summer. Butler bet on himself last October by turning down the Bulls four-year offer (reportedly for $44 million). He won that bet by having the best season of his career and being named an All-Star. If Butler doubles down and takes the one-year deal then he will hit the open market during a time that will see the largest cap increase in league history.
If Butler has a similar season to the one he just had, in 2016 he could get an approximately four-year, $96 million offer from another team, or a roughly five-year, $130 million offer from the Bulls. Butler would have to turn down at least $46 million to do this, though. It would be a huge risk because one knee injury could cost him millions of dollars. If Butler is extremely confident he can perform at an All-Star level again, he might take this option.