JULY 10TH: The Bobcats signing of Jefferson has been finalized, tweets Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer. The team confirmed the move in a press release.
JULY 4TH: The Bobcats have reached an agreement on a three-year deal with Al Jefferson, reports ESPN.com's Marc Stein (via Twitter). According to Stein, the contract will be worth about $41MM, and the third year will be a player option. Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer pegs Jefferson's average annual salary at $13.5MM, while Sam Amick of USA Today confirms (via Twitter) that the overall value will be $40.5MM.
Jefferson, 28, spent two days visiting with the Bobcats, but it still comes as something of a surprise that Charlotte would land him. When I explored the team's potential to add a max-salary free agent earlier this year, I noted that overpaying for an impact free agent may not be the best use of the Bobcats' resources, since they're more than one player from contention. As Grantland's Zach Lowe tweets, Charlotte's agreement with Jefferson isn't very damaging long-term, but an annual salary of $13.5MM is a significant price to pay.
The Bobcats' agreement with Jefferson is even more unexpected since we heard just last night that the big man intended to wait until after Dwight Howard signed, in case that resulted in more interest from the losers of the Howard sweepstakes. Jefferson was also reportedly seeking a four-year deal worth around $15MM annually.
While Jefferson isn't considered a strong defender, he's a very effective offensive post player, having averaged 18.5 PPG and 9.5 RPG for the Jazz over the last three seasons. The Excel Sports client will join a frontcourt in Charlotte that already features a pair of defense-first players in Brendan Haywood and Bismack Biyombo.
Assuming no sign-and-trade agreement with the Jazz is on the table, Jefferson's deal with Charlotte will remove his maximum-salary cap hold from Utah's books when the July moratorium is lifted. The Jazz could still decide to re-sign Paul Millsap, but if they don't bring back either of their free agent bigs, they'll have a ton of cap room available this month.
As for the Bobcats, with cap holds for Gerald Henderson and Cody Zeller on their books, the team only has about $10MM in cap space. Assuming Charlotte doesn't intend to renounce its rights to Henderson, clearing the room for Jefferson's first-year salary will likely require amnestying Tyrus Thomas, as Lowe notes (via Twitter).