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2024 WNBA Free Agency

WNBA Free Agency Overview

Today we’ll take a look at everything you need to know about how 2024 WNBA free agency works, including key dates. We’ll share some top players that could be on the move. We’ll reveal the latest free agency rumors. And we’ll discuss where to track every team’s current roster and their newest transactions, so you can easily follow your favorite players.

Finally, we’ll provide a glimpse into the WNBA players’ point of view and considerations as they approach their own free agency decisions, with wonderful insight from sharp shooter and two-time WNBA Champion Sami Whitcomb and elite defensive guard Alysha Clark.

2024 WNBA Free Agency FAQs

WNBA free agency is really important to keep the league growing. Here are some answers to common questions about free agency.

Does the WNBA have free agency?

Yes. Teams can start negotiating with players on Jan 21, 2024. But there’s a moratorium period and no contracts can be officially signed until Feb 1, 2024.

How does WNBA free agency work?

Once free agency officially begins, teams can negotiate with players, and there are classifications that players fall into that determine how they can negotiate (4 main ones). From January 11 to January 20, teams are required to send out qualifying offers to make applicable players restricted or reserved. Most eligible players will get those qualifying offers, because it’s non-guaranteed money that teams can cut at a later date. 

  • Jan 11: Teams can start extending qualifying offers to reserved free agents.
  • Jan 21: Teams can start negotiating with free agents.
  • Feb 1: Players can officially sign negotiated contracts.

Categories of free agents

Free agents are expected to be divided into four categories: core players, reserved players, restricted free agents, and unrestricted free agents. 

1. Core players

These are player designations that give that team exclusive negotiating rights with the player. According to the WNBA, players can now receive a core designation only three times in their career. 

Core players for WNBA free agency

2. Reserved players

Players with three or fewer years of service are considered to be reserved players. According to the WNBA, the player’s prior team has exclusive negotiating rights (like the core designation).

Reserved players for WNBA free agency

3. Restricted free agents

These are players with four or five years of service. According to the WNBA, restricted free agency gives the player’s prior team the right to keep the player by matching a contract offer the player signs with another team during free agency. This ends up being a lot of players who have just finished their rookie scale contract.

The WNBA goes on to explain that if the player signs a contract offer with another team, the player’s prior team has four days from the date it received the offer to determine whether it wishes to match. If the offer is matched, the player will remain with their prior team. If the offer is not matched within the four-day period, the player will be under contract with the new team. 

Restricted free agents for WNBA

4. Unrestricted free agents

This tends to be the most fun (read: spicy!) category to watch! Unrestricted free agents are players who complete the playing services called for in their contract and have played for five or more years. They are free to sign with any team provided that they are not designated as a “Core Player” by their prior team, according to the WNBA CBA.

WNBA unrestricted free agents

Top player free agents to watch in 2024

Here are a few WNBA players we’re watching closely, along with their current teams:

  • Breanna Stewart – New York Liberty
  • Skylar Diggins-Smith – Phoenix Mercury
  • Satou Sabally – Dallas Wings
  • Candace Parker – Las Vegas Aces
  • Natasha Cloud – Washington Mystics
  • Jonquel Jones – New York Liberty
  • DeWanna Bonner – Connecticut Sun
  • Brionna Jones – Connecticut Sun
  • Jordin Canada – Los Angeles Sparks
  • Diamond DeShields – Dallas Wings
  • Layshia Clarendon – Los Angeles Sparks
  • Aerial Powers – Minnesota Lynx
  • Odyssey Sims – Dallas Wings
  • Courtney Williams – Chicago Sky
  • Nneka Ogwumike – Los Angeles Sparks
  • Brittney Griner – Phoenix Mercury

Explore a complete preliminary list of unrestricted free agents here. Tiffany Hayes has retired from the WNBA, and Kristi Toliver has been named associate head coach of the Phoenix Mercury, so they will not be joining teams. Also keep in mind that the prioritization rule kicks in this year, so anyone who doesn’t report for the start of training camp will be suspended. For example, Gabby Williams is likely to decide to stay overseas in France.

2024 WNBA Free Agency Rumors

1/5/24 – Skylar Diggins-Smith tweeted that she doesn’t think Indiana needs her, and that she loves the east coast.

1/9/24 – Paige Bueckers is likely staying at UConn another year. This is draft news, which is definitely going to impact free agency. “It’s not about teams in the draft, who’s got what pick,” Paige told the media on Tuesday. “It’s all about me loving playing here, me loving my teammates and wanting to get more experiences and more time with them and more time in the program. I think that’s the deciding factor, just wanting to be here longer and not anything necessarily that’s already picked and chosen in the draft.”

1/10/24 – Elena Delle Donne and the Washington Mystics had the ability during the 2023 season to extend her contract and did not do so. And two league sources tell The Next that Delle Donne is expected to move to another team this offseason.

To see the latest breaking free agency news follow these folks on Twitter:

By the way, creator of Power Plays, Lindsay Gibbs wrote a fascinating piece about how Rachel Galligan, Howard Megdal, and Khristina Williams got their starts breaking WNBA news, and the stories they’re most proud of breaking.

2024 WNBA Free Agency Trackers & Transactions

Keep your eye on the WNBA transactions page this year to see moves as they happen and the free agency hub, or visit Across the Timeline’s tracker. And check out this tracker by the Chicago Sun Times. We like it because it’s really visual, and has every player who made an appearance in the league. You may also find Her Hoops Stats salary cap sheet by team tool helpful in seeing negotiating wiggling room.

A couple highlights so far (via Across the Timeline) are that New York has cored Breana Stewart, Dallas has extended a qualifying offer to Satou Sabally, and Washington has cored Elena Delle Donne.

WNBA Free Agency Movement Is Good

Unrestricted free agent Breanna Stewart told SB Nation, “I think that this year [2022], this free agency is probably gonna be the biggest free agency since our new CBA.” And it didn’t disappoint. Though, veteran hooper Candace Parker made what still remains probably the biggest move in 2021, choosing to return home to Chicago, and culminated the season crowned a WNBA champion.

Player movement is good for any sports league, especially the WNBA. Marquee players want to be in control of their careers, and should be given the opportunity to see what else is out there.

As Chelsea Gray’s wife Tipsea explained during the awesome Uninterrupted documentary detailing the couple’s free agency visit to the Las Vegas Aces in 2021, “You get to see how other teams operate, you get to see how other people treat their players, treat superstars and from there you can make an educated decision. But when you only have been with one franchise, you don’t know what you don’t know.”

In January 2020, the WNBA set the wheels in motion for players to move to new teams, as the league and the Women’s National Basketball Players Association reached a new Collective Bargaining Agreement.

The new CBA provides players with better travel accommodations, motherhood and family planning, and salary increases. Ultimately allowing for a total team salary cap of more than $1.3 million. And all WNBA teams must carry at least 11 players on their roster. Other changes that impact player movement include that a player can now only be “cored” three times, rather than four. And players must only finish five seasons prior to entering unrestricted free agency, down from six.

Player Perspective: WNBA Free Agency Behind the Scenes with Sami Whitcomb & Alysha Clark

In two-time WNBA Champion Sami Whitcomb’s second podcast episodeLearning from Legends, she chats with elite defensive guard Alysha Clark about free agency. They dive into what they consider when evaluating the next steps in their career. They reveal how it’s not just about the money, or loving their co-workers: It’s about pushing through complacency and finding new ways to grow.

Sami: “Alright well I want to change topics a little and move into where you are now. I think obviously there’s a lot that we’re not covering in between what we just spoke on and where you are now. But I think I really want to do a little bit of a deep dive so to speak into free agency and what that experience is like for players. Obviously we can only speak from our perspectives.”

“I know sometimes I’ll read articles or comments or whatever when I’m bored and you hear fans or whoever speculate on certain things and it always makes me think how they just don’t know the process. They don’t understand what’s happening or like what’s going on. And fair enough, there’s no reason for them to necessarily know the ins and outs. But I do think that there’s probably a lot of interest in the process of it for players, what they’re thinking about, what’s important to them, what their reasons are going in what they are looking for.”

“So I guess I thought we could both kind of speak to why we were in the position we were in after you know how many years were both in Seattle, winning a couple of Championships, what it was for each of us that was enticing to decide ‘OK, we’re ready for a new challenge’ you know we’re ready for this next kind of step in our careers, and what drew us away, I guess. So I want to start with you and what you’re comfortable with talking about in terms of that experience for you.”

Alysha: “Well this was my first real free agency. Cuz at any other time, I basically signed year to year, until I got my first two years. I signed, and then I signed an extension. And in those years it was kind of like – I’m not going to say nobody else was interested – but I didn’t really have value in the league anywhere else, kind of outside of Seattle. So it was always a no-brainer. It was like ‘No I want to be here.” I felt like at the time during those other years I was quote on quote with a free agent, there was still so much more room for me to grow. So I was like ‘Oh, you know, OK.’ I’m a creature of habit, I’m a creature of comfort.”

“So it was just like ‘No this is where I want to be, where I want to stay’ and I don’t want to jeopardize something good that I have here, for a potential let down somewhere else…It was like a no-brainer. I was like I have a lot more room to grow here, I’m going to keep growing here. So that’s what I did and that’s what I chose, and I’m so happy I did because it put me in a position where after the 2020 season I now actually got to experience free agency for the first time.”

“And honestly, when I was going through the process, when I was initially approached in the process, I wasn’t planning on leaving. You know what I mean? I just wanted to pay respect to actually having a free agency, go through the process, and just be able to bring some little nuggets back and be like ‘OK, hey how about this? Why don’t we work and progress in this way, blah, blah, blah.’”

“And so having these conversations, going throughout it, hearing what these other GMs, other coaches, thought of me and thought of my potential I was like ‘Wow, huh, okay.’  That really started kind of making me think.”

“And I’ll never forget on one of the calls they were like ‘It doesn’t matter what we all think. We all think you’re an incredible player. We all want you as part of our organization. We all think you’re an incredible person. But what do you want?’ And when that question was posed to me I was like ‘Okay well’ and I sat there, and after I got off the phone I was like I guess I’ve never really sat back and thought about what I personally want out of my career.”

Sami: “Which is crazy.”

Alysha: “I just kind of went with whatever was right, and whatever made everyone else happy and comfortable. And I was for it. And at the time it was great, cuz that’s what I was enjoying; that was what made me happy. But then I never really stopped to think, how some of these other players get to do like, ‘In my career I want XYZ’ – I’ve never done that. I’ve never set a personal goal. I’ve never set those types of things in my career in the WNBA.”

“Overseas [I did]. But in the WNBA I never did. Because I was like ‘Oh it’s not going to be a reality. So there’s no point to do it and be disappointed.’ Until the 2020 season, I made my first personal goal. I set a personal goal of being Defensive Player of the Year. I was like I’m more than capable of making that happen. I’m more than capable of being in the running and talk for that. So that was the first time in my entire career that I set a personal goal.”

Sami: “And you were that year. Let me just put that out there.”

Alysha: “So I did that and I sat back and I said ‘Okay what does Alysha want?’ Not ‘What does Alysha want that’s going to make so-and-so happy, that’s going to make so-and-so feel good?’ Job less hectic? What do you want?”

“And when I did that, I realized I’m choosing to be comfortable.”

“The things I said I wanted to do off the court to set up life after basketball were being put on the back burner. And I was like, I’ve been saying I want to do these things and I haven’t done them. And that is honestly like what it was. I was like I need to get out of my comfort zone.”

“I need to take a bet on myself. And if I fail alright cool but at least I made the decision for myself. But if I succeed, cool because I made a decision for myself – and that was hard.”

Sami: “It’s so interesting to hear you say that because in my opinion we’re very much in different categories in terms of caliber of player in this league. And I feel like the words you’re using in the thought process you had was very, very in alignment with mine. So the word comfort that you said. Like that was it for me…I remember just the shock of probably even more for people to hear that you were leaving cuz I’m sure they were thinking ‘Oh she’s a starter. She has such an amazing role on this team…Why would she leave?’ And you know, same for me now like, ‘What’s Sammy going to do? She has this great role for herself there, they’ve won Championships, she’s playing with these players. Why would you leave?’” 

“I think people assume it’s ‘Oh they’re unhappy there.’ It wasn’t even that like, I think we were both truly happy, we loved our team, we loved the organization, we love the city of Seattle. It was so fulfilling in the time that we were there. But you use that word comfort and I think for me it’s always been about trying to realize my potential, whatever that looks like. Like you said if you fail you fail, but you tried at least. You put yourself out there.”

“You stepped out of your comfort zone. That is such a cliche but it’s the only way that you’re able to kind of see how great you can be. Or what your ceiling is.”

“And I think even for someone as great as you, like you wanted to experience that. You wanted to continue to explore how good you could be, and in what areas you could continue to improve and evolve in. And that was much the same for me. It was like ‘All right, well I know lots of people think that that’s probably the best I can do in terms of a role. But let’s see. Let’s see if I can play a little bit more, have a little bit larger of a role. Be a leader on a team, whatever.’ And that’s really what it comes down to. It’s not as simple as that, because there’s so much emotion involved. It’s so, so hard when you are comfortable somewhere and when you do really love the people and who you’ve been doing this with.”

“But ultimately, I think for me – and I assume it was similar for you – I just felt like if I didn’t do that decision then, I think I would have always looked back and I would have always wondered. I would have always had maybe a little bit of just regret that I didn’t just have the courage to kind of like you said bet on yourself. And again, I could live with it not working out. But the not knowing, would probably always, I think as a competitor – would always eat away at you a little bit.”

“So I think it’s not easy and I know it’s not always what people want to hear. They think it must be this contentious ‘She didn’t get what she wanted. They weren’t looking after them or whatever it was.’”

“But sometimes it’s just as simple as you just need that next opportunity to grow, you need that next challenge. And I think as competitors and athletes I mean that’s a real thing that’s a real craving. That’s a real itch we have to scratch in order to be elite I think. It’s what sets players like you apart.”

“So yeah, I just found that really interesting and I wanted to know what your experience was, in terms of similarities with mine, and obviously we had talked along the way. And I remember just being so excited for you that you were able to finally enjoy this process and this experience. Where you did feel like people were valuing you, and you didn’t feel like you had to maybe just not that you didn’t want to stay in Seattle, but that you didn’t have options to really feel like okay if I do want to go somewhere else I can. So it was exciting, from my perspective, to see that you were getting at least the attention and love that you deserve. It was a long time coming.”

Up next, learn more about the 2024 WNBA draft.

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