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WNBA Free Agency 2024: Mystics core Elena Delle Donne

The move is similar to the NFL’s franchise player tag. It could also ensure that Delle Donne wouldn’t leave the Mystics “for nothing.”

Washington Mystics v Las Vegas Aces Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Washington Mystics forward Elena Delle Donne is rumored to be leaving in free agency. However, the Mystics extended her a core qualifying offer last week. This move sets up an interesting situation, not just for the Mystics, but the WNBA as well.

What is the core qualifying offer?

The core qualifying offer is a franchise player tag WNBA teams give to a player who would otherwise hit unrestricted free agency. The qualifying offer compels the potential free agent to negotiate solely with the team that cored her. The player gets offered a supermax salary for one year in return. In the 2024 season, that amount is $241,984.

The cored player and the team don’t HAVE to sign for the supermax once negotiations start, so it’s possible the two parties can negotiate a lower deal. But the player still can only negotiate with the team that cored her, at least officially.

So in plain English, Delle Donne can earn a salary of up to $241,984 in the 2024 WNBA season. But the Mystics are the only team she can negotiate with to force a trade, if she truly wants to leave.

Does that mean that Delle Donne is forced to stay in D.C.?

No. The core player designation means that Delle Donne can only negotiate with the Mystics. She can then request to be traded, and the Mystics could get some players for her.

Alternatively, Delle Donne can retire if she really wants to leave the Mystics at all costs. But this isn’t one of those situations.

Why would the Mystics want to core Delle Donne?

Simply put, the Mystics do not want to lose their franchise player for nothing. That move would likely set them back. It also would set another major question about whether they could re-sign Natasha Cloud, who is also an unrestricted free agent.

By coring Delle Donne now, they can shop her around to bring in another star player and/or picks.

Where could Delle Donne fit in if she leaves?

Jackie Powell of the Locked on Women’s Basketball podcast chatted with Jenn Hatfield of The Next on this topic, what could happen to Cloud and the place the Mystics hold in this year’s free agency. You can watch the podcast below.