WNBA Free Agency 2022: Top Rumors on Contracts, Trades Before Official Start Date

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 31, 2022

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 6: Jonquel Jones #35 of the Connecticut Sun looks on against the Chicago Sky during Game Four of the 2021 WNBA Semifinals on October 6, 2021 at the Wintrust Arena in Chicago, Illinois. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE (Photo by Jeff Haynes/NBAE via Getty Images)
Jeff Haynes/NBAE via Getty Images

The WNBA offseason is due to spring into life Tuesday as players are allowed to officially begin signing contracts with teams.

As expected, some big dominoes appear to have fallen since the free-agent negotiating window opened Jan. 15.

The market isn't lacking for star power, with Jonquel Jones, A'ja Wilson, Breanna Stewart, Jewell Loyd and Kahleah Copper all hitting restricted or unrestricted free agency.

In December, Bleacher Report's Jackie Powell ranked the best players available, and there may not be much drama surrounding two of the top three players on that list.

Rachel Galligan of Just Women's Sports reported Jan. 24 the Connecticut Sun were finalizing a long-term extension with Jones. They had already applied the core designation to the 2021 MVP, which works similarly to the franchise tag in the NFL and guaranteed her at least $228,094 for the 2022 season.

Wilson, the 2020 MVP, is staying with her current team as well. Girls Talk Sports TV's Khristina Williams reported the Las Vegas Aces were working on a new deal for the three-time All-Star.

A'ja Wilson @_ajawilson22

Damn fr? Lmao <a href="https://t.co/3yp8OfjSsA">https://t.co/3yp8OfjSsA</a>

There's a little less certainty surrounding Stewart.

With only five players under contract, the Storm will be unable to re-sign everybody this winter. In her first full offseason in the role, general manager Talisa Rhea will have to make some difficult decisions.

Seattle answered one question when it prematurely announced the return of Sue Bird. The 41-year-old confirmed she will play one more season in the WNBA, and it seems highly unlikely she'll leave the Storm after having spent her entire career with the organization.

Sue Bird @S10Bird

<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/1moreyear?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#1moreyear</a> 🤝 <a href="https://t.co/COFVAyBlDN">pic.twitter.com/COFVAyBlDN</a>

Stewart has been somewhat declarative about her intentions, but a small sliver of doubt remains.

"Seattle has always been my [WNBA] home," she told reporters in September. "It's where I've grown up, it's where my career has continued to blossom. So I plan on being back unless something crazy happens. We have more things to do here."

However, Yahoo Sports' Chris Haynes reported on Jan. 22 that Stewart met with a contingent from the New York Liberty. Beyond getting a little closer to home, the Syracuse, New York, native might relish the opportunity to lead the Liberty to a title while playing in one of the biggest media markets in the world.

One dilemma for Rhea was for whom she would use the core designation with both Stewart and Loyd out of contract. The Storm announced Jan. 14 that Loyd received the core qualifying offer, which leaves Stewart free to sign with any other team.

Were the 2018 MVP to bolt, it would significantly alter the WNBA landscape.

Williams reported Seattle is expected to add Briann January to fortify its backcourt, while Galligan reported Mercedes Russell was discussing a multiyear deal with the team. Those are the moves you'd expect a contending team to make, so one presumes the Storm are confident about retaining Stewart.

At the very least, the Liberty will be adding one former Connecticut Huskies star. The Athletic's Chantel Jennings reported Sunday that Stefanie Dolson agreed to terms with New York.

The Liberty's "hybrid rebuild" was a flop as they finished 12-20 in 2021 and lost in the first round of the playoffs before firing head coach Walt Hopkins. By hiring former Phoenix Mercury head coach Sandy Brondello and pursuing Dolson, New York showed it's ready to move on from its rebuilding plan entirely.

Much like the Storm, the defending champion Chicago Sky had little chance of keeping their entire title-winning roster together. Four players are under contract for 2022 in the Windy City, and the Sky only have $908,215 in salary cap room. That money will evaporate fast when Copper, Courtney Vandersloot, Allie Quigley and Diamond DeShields are looking for new contracts.

Chicago has at least tied down the reigning Finals MVP, with the Chicago Sun-Times' Annie Costabile reporting Copper agreed to a deal that's expected to run for two years. Another Finals MVP is making her way to the Sky as Galligan reported Emma Meesseman agreed to terms with the team.

The 2002 Los Angeles Sparks are the last WNBA team to repeat as champions. Not even the Minnesota Lynx could pull the feat off during their dynastic run across the 2010s.

History is against the Sky in their quest to remain at the summit, but head coach/general manager James Wade is doing a good job of ensuring Chicago can make a run at a second ring.