- The Washington Times - Monday, June 26, 2006

Soon after tomorrow’s NBA Draft, the Washington Wizards must decide what to do with restricted free agent Jared Jeffries.

Because he is a restricted free agent, the Wizards can match any offer made to the 6-foot-11 forward.

According to sources with knowledge of the situation, a number of teams will show interest in Jeffries when they are allowed to do so beginning Saturday.

Teams interested in Jeffries include Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, San Antonio and New York.

Jeffries averaged 6.4 points and 4.9 rebounds and started 77 games for the Wizards last season. In the Wizards’ first-round loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers, he averaged 8.0 points, 6.2 rebounds and a team-high 1.17 blocks in 35.8 minutes a game.

Jeffries averaged just 25.3 minutes a game in the regular season, which concerned some teams at the time. However, when the Wizards demonstrated a need to rely on him more in the playoffs and his minutes increased, his agent, Andy Miller, believes those teams put those fears to rest.

“Teams wondered about why his minutes fluctuated, and he did to,” Miller said yesterday. “I know that Jared is going to want have more confidence that he’s going to see his playing time be more stable.”

Sources with the Wizard have said they want to keep Jeffries, but that will no doubt depend on the offers he receives. Last season, Jeffries earned a little less than $2.8 million.

The Wizards will have their mid-level exception available to them to sign Jeffries as well. That would enable them to sign him to a five-year deal at a little more than $5 million a season.

During the past month, two agents agreed that Jeffries had shown enough versatility in the regular season and the playoffs — he played all five position at various points in the season — to increase his worth perhaps two-fold.

“He’s capable of playing a lot of varying roles and teams noticed that,” said one agent, requesting to remain anonymous. “He’s 6-11, he’s athletic and he’s coachable. Those are the things teams like in a player.”

The Wizards have just less than $49 million committed to salaries for next season. The salary cap for next season will be determined later this summer but is expected to increase by a few million. Last year it jumped by almost $6 million.

More important than going over the salary cap is avoiding the luxury tax, which last season was triggered when teams spent more than $61.7 million on salaries.

Teams exceeding the luxury tax must match every dollar they spend over the tax.