- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 1, 2007

The Washington Wizards will offer guard DeShawn Stevenson a three-year, $9 million deal today, a league source with knowledge of the situation said last night.

Additionally, it is expected New Jersey will offer Wizards restricted free agent forward Andray Blatche a four- or five-year deal starting at $3.9 million a season, according to a second source.

Stevenson, who opted out of the second year of his contract, earned about $1 million last season, his first with the Wizards after turning down a three-year, $10 million offer from the Orlando Magic last summer.

“Our first order of business will be to take care of our own free agents,” Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld said Friday. “We like our own guys.”

Teams can begin negotiating contracts with free agents today but can’t sign them until July 11.

Stevenson was the only player to start all 82 games for the Wizards, averaging 11.2 points on 46.1 percent shooting, and was productive playing with good friend Gilbert Arenas.

But he struggled in the playoffs with Arenas and Caron Butler sidelined, averaging 6.0 points on just 19.6 percent shooting as the Wizards were swept in the first round.

Blatche, 20, showed signs of improvement in his second season, and there are those in the organization who believe the 6-foot-11 forward can become a valuable asset if he dedicates himself to the game. He averaged 3.7 points and 3.4 rebounds in 12.5 minutes a game last season.

Because Blatche is a restricted free agent, the Wizards are allowed to match any offer he receives. That gives the team more flexibility, and it is unlikely the Wizards will match an offer right away. Instead, they will let New Jersey’s offer sit there and see whether any other team is interested in Blatche before making a decision.

The Wizards will be over the salary cap next season, meaning they can use just their mid-level exception (starting at $4.5 million) to re-sign him. The salary cap, which was $53.1 million last season (7.3 percent more than the year before), is expected to be announced today. A similar jump would put the cap at about $57 million.

“We’re over the cap, that’s for sure,” Grunfeld said. “And we’re going to be over the cap, regardless of what comes out.”

The Wizards also have the veterans’ exception, and a source said yesterday the team is likely give it to Calvin Booth, an unrestricted free agent who spent the last two seasons with Washington.

The offer to Stevenson means the Wizards are unlikely to try to re-sign restricted free agent Jarvis Hayes, the No. 10 pick in the 2003 draft. Hayes, who missed huge chunks of his second and third seasons to knee injuries, has never averaged more than 10.2 points and never shot better than 42.1 percent.

The Wizards are unlikely to make additional moves in free agency because of the salary cap and the luxury tax, which forces teams to pay a dollar for every dollar over the cap.

The Wizards have seven players already signed to contracts, totaling more than $53 million. The team also has to sign last year’s top pick, Oleksiy Pecherov, and this year’s picks, first-rounder Nick Young and second-rounder Dominic McGuire, bringing the team to 10 signed players.

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