CBA 101

May 27, 2004

The product of lengthy negotiations prior to the 2003 season, the WNBA's Collective Bargaining Agreement, completed in conjunction with the WNBA Players Association on Apr. 25, 2003, is unique in women's professional sports. takes you through some of the key provisions of the CBA, eliminating the legal double-speak.

The Roster

  • During the regular season, each team is allowed 11 players on the active roster and up to two on the Injured List. This does not count players who are on the team's Suspended List, notably those playing overseas to whom the team still retains rights. Storm players Sandy Brondello and Jung Sun-Min, both of whom remained in their home countries in preparation for this summer's Olympics, both fall into this category.

  • During training camp, teams are allowed up to 18 players prior to a given date (May 4, this year) and 15 between then and when final rosters are due, typically the day before the start of the WNBA regular season. This only counts players who are in camp and not those, like the Storm's Kamila Vodichkova and Simone Edwards, who arrived late.

  • The entire roster, including players on the Injured List, must fit under the WNBA's salary cap. Aside from exceptions to replace injured players in "extenuating circumstances" (which generally requires a team to have less than 10 healthy players), the WNBA's cap is a hard cap, meaning that teams cannot exceed it.

    Free Agency

  • This past off-season marked the first time WNBA players enjoyed unrestricted free agency. Players with six or more years of experience whose contracts have expired will become Unrestricted Free Agents through the remainder of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Storm forward Adia Barnes was an unrestricted free agent this winter before re-signing with the team.

  • Players with less experience can become Restricted Free Agents. Last off-season, five years of experience was needed to become a Restricted Free Agent. Beginning this winter and through the remainder of the CBA, players with either four or five years of experience when their contract expires will become Restricted Free Agents. As Restricted Free Agents, they are free to sign Offer Sheets with other WNBA teams with enough cap room to make the offer, but their own team has 10 days in which to choose to match the offer. Tully Bevilaqua was a restricted free agent for the Storm this off-season.

  • Players with three years or less experience when their contract expires are considered "Reserved Players" and can re-sign only with their own team. For the Storm this off-season, this group included All-Stars Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson.

  • Players who clear waivers and those who go unselected in either the Amateur Draft or a Dispersal Draft are unrestricted free agents and free to sign with any team.

  • The exception to the free agency rules is for "Core Players". Each team may designate up to two players who would be free agents as Core Players, removing their right to free agency. In exchange, the team must guarantee a one-year deal at the WNBA's maximum salary, though the player and the team can negotiate a longer contract. The Core Player designation lasts until the player's contract expires or she is traded to another team.


  • The default maximum length for WNBA contracts is three years. However, there are exceptions. Rookie contracts are for three years guaranteed and a fourth option year, while players who re-sign with their own team and have at least two years of service with the team, can sign contracts of up to four years. Undrafted rookies are limited to two-year deals at longest.

  • The WNBA's minimum salary depends on experience. Players with between up to three years experience have one minimum salary, while there is another for players with four or more years of experience. This is why it was such an important story during the Storm's training camp when Stacy Clinesmith was determined to have four years experience based on two days spent on the Detroit Shock's active roster last season.

  • The WNBA's maximum salary does not depend on experience.

  • Rookie contracts are slotted based on where the player was selected during the WNBA Draft.