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WNBA CBA & Salary Cap Explained: Assorted Contracts
What is a rest-of-season contract? What is the hardship exception? How do teams get one?
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Welcome back to our WNBA CBA and Salary Cap Explained series. As part of our mission to unlock better insight about the women’s game, we’re breaking down the rules outlined in the 350-page WNBA Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), covering the 2020 through 2027 seasons, in plain language. Each article will focus on a bite-size chunk of the CBA to make the concepts more digestible. We are also compiling all of this information on the Her Hoop Stats website in a single FAQ document.
In previous articles, we briefly discussed some contracts that act differently from a standard rookie or veteran contract. Among those unique contracts were rest-of-season, seven-day, and replacement contracts. In this piece, we will break down these assorted contracts and how they vary from a typical contract.
Missed our previous installments? Here are all the topics we have covered so far…
What is a rest-of-season contract?
A rest-of-season contract is a contract that is entered into after the start of the regular season. Because the contract begins after the regular season has started, the player will receive a prorated amount of their base salary depending on when the contract is signed. The contract also cannot have any sort of base salary protection.
The base salary can be any value between the league minimum and maximum, though they are typically for the minimum. The base salary is then multiplied by the fraction consisting of the number of days covered by the contract divided by the total number of days in the regular season. For example, if a player is under contract for 30 of the 107 days in a hypothetical regular season, they are entitled to 28% (30/107) of their base salary.
What is a replacement contract?
A replacement contract is similar to a rest-of-season contract, but teams are only allowed to sign a player to a replacement contract if multiple players are currently unable to play. Additionally, replacement contracts must be signed for 75% of the applicable minimum base salary, which is then prorated in the same way as rest-of-season contracts. The contract is signed for the remainder of the season but must be terminated if the player being replaced returns from their injury. Replacement contracts are the only time a team may exceed the league’s salary cap during the regular season.
How do teams become eligible for a replacement contract?
Teams can become eligible to sign players to replacement contracts if they qualify for either a hardship exception or an emergency hardship exception. The basic hardship exception is for teams with two players who are out because of injury, illness, or other conditions. Both players must be unable to play for at least three weeks from the time the team requests an exception. Whether or not an injured player will be unable to play for the next three weeks is determined by a physician designated by the league. If additional players are expected to be out for an extended period of time, the team may start the process again to request an additional exception.
Crucially, the second injured player must miss at least two consecutive games before the team can ask the league for an exemption. Therefore, no team can sign a player to a replacement contract under the basic hardship exception for opening night. The Washington Mystics appear to be affected by this clause with Elena Delle Donne and Tina Charles being evaluated under the WNBA’s medical protocol. If both are out this season, the Mystics would have to open the season with only 10 players and would not be able to request an exception until after the second game of the season.
An emergency hardship exception is allowed, at the discretion of the league, when a team has fewer than 10 available players on their roster. This can be a result of injury or illness like the regular hardship exception, but players who are away from the team for other reasons count as well.
If granted the exception, the team can sign as many players to replacement contracts as needed to reach 10 available players. As the original players return to play, the team must terminate those replacement contracts to remain at 10 players until at least 10 non-replacement players are available. The Atlanta Dream recently signed Erica McCall to a replacement contract after the team fell below 10 active players.
What is a seven-day contract?
A seven-day contract is exactly what it sounds like, a contract that is in effect for only seven days. They may only be signed in the second half of the season. These contracts are used as a flexible alternative to standard or rest-of-season contracts when filling out the roster, or when covering for an injured player.
The contracts are at the minimum base salary and prorated where the fraction is seven divided by the total number of days in the regular season. Seven-day contracts cannot extend to or past the end of the regular season, so they must be signed at least eight days prior to the last day of the regular season. Additionally, one team can only sign a single player to three or fewer seven-day contracts in any one season.
Do players receive credit for a year of service for playing under these contracts?
A player who signs a rest-of-season contract will receive a year of service once they have been on the roster for one day. Players do not earn a year of service for years in which they were signed only to replacement contracts or seven-day contracts. On a similar note, because rookie-scale eligibility doesn’t always mean having zero years of service, a player who has only ever been signed to replacement contracts or seven-day contracts is still considered a rookie when signing a standard player contract. This means that a player who goes undrafted and then signs either a replacement or seven-day contract in their first year would then be governed by a rookie-scale contract when they are signed to a standard contract.
This series is about learning, so we want to hear from you! If you would like a clarification for any rule, suggestions for future CBA Explained topics, or any other questions, please feel free to let us know in the comments or tweet at us @herhoopstats.