While the moves were announced as signings, the players likely accepted reserved qualifying offers extended by the Mystics because the players are all reserved free agents. Gemelos, Johnson and Sutton are now on one-year, minimum salary training camp contracts that will not count against the salary cap unless the player makes the team.
All three players were reserved due to having three or fewer years of service and could only negotiate with the Mystics. If you want to learn more about reserved players or anything about WNBA free agency, check out the WNBA CBA FAQ from Her Hoop Stats.
The timing of the news is a bit odd because reserved free agents can’t begin negotiating with their prior teams until January 15th and can’t agree to contracts until February 1st. While this move is not technically allowed yet, the Connecticut Sun also announced the signing of Natisha Hiedeman and it doesn’t seem like an issue. After all, Mystics Coach Mike Thibault spilled the beans of Elena Delle Donne and Emma Meesseman signing early last season as well.
Sutton, Gemelos and Johnson all joined the Mystics in-season. Washington drafted Sug Sutton with the last pick in the 2020 WNBA Draft, cut her in training camp, then brought her back in August. The former Texas Longhorn averaged 2.8 points per game in the 12 games she played with the team.
Jacki Gemelos, a 34-year old former #1 recruit, played in 12 games after joining the team on a seven-day contract. She put up 3.2 points per game and earned the nickname, “The Mayor,” for knowing everyone in the Wubble.
Stella Johnson joined the team at the same time as Gemelos, and her arrival led to Shey Peddy’s departure (which ended up being very important in the playoffs). Stella had two scoring outbursts for 25 points against Atlanta and 12 points against the Phoenix. Then, she hurt her ankle after just six games with DC and missed the rest of the season.
This is just the beginning of a very intriguing, or scary if you’re a Mystics fan, free agency period. Aerial Powers, Tina Charles, Emma Meesseman and Tianna Hawkins are all unrestricted free agents, while Natasha Cloud and Latoya Sanders don’t have contracts (although they can only negotiate with the Mystics).
If all those players participate in the 2021 season and the Mystics somehow re-sign everyone, there would be one spot available for the three players signed today. If I had to pick without seeing them in camp, I would take Stella Johnson to make the roster. She’s younger than Gemelos, and this team desperately needs young and inexpensive players going forward. Johnson is a slightly better fit than Sutton because her shooting works so well with Coach Thibault’s system.