The Minnesota Lynx will extend a qualifying offer to Bridget Carleton during the upcoming pre-free agency period — slated to take place between January 1 and January 15 — making her a reserved free agent, Canis Hoopus has learned. The qualifying offer is for one year at the league minimum — $72,141 for an athlete with her years of experience — and allows the Lynx exclusive negotiating rights with Carleton, keeping the door open for a longer-term extension.
Carleton, a former Iowa State Cyclone standout, has excelled in her role since joining the Lynx during the 2019 season. She has appeared in 58 games, starting 25, and has averaged 5.1 points, 2.7 rebounds, and 1.7 assists per game. Her positional versatility on both sides of the ball has been a boon for the Lynx and provided key depth, particularly during her breakout 2020 campaign when center Sylvia Fowles missed a significant portion of the season with a calf strain.
She finished third on the team in 3-point field goal percentage (36.5%) and ranked in the 55th percentile (0.922 ppp) league-wide during spot-up opportunities this past summer.
It was always a bit of a foregone conclusion that the Lynx would extend the qualifying offer to Carleton, but the move will become official at some point during the next two weeks. Doing so allows them to retain her on the roster and also negotiate a multi-year deal without allowing her to hit the free-agent market. Carleton is an excellent role player and is by all accounts appreciated by her teammates and coaches, so keeping her around is a bit of a no-brainer.
While Carleton lacks elite athleticism or speed, her feel for the game, overall intelligence, and consistent high-level effort have allowed her to stick at the WNBA level. She is also among the best shooters on a Lynx team that struggled to hit jump shots last season, providing key value in a league that is attempting a greater amount of outside shots each season.
Carleton will likely see her role expand to a degree during the 2022 season with Napheesa Collier expected to miss a significant portion, if not all, of the campaign due to pregnancy. Her ability to slot in seamlessly at guard, wing, or forward provides the Lynx with much-needed depth, especially with the team expected to carry only 10 athletes on the active roster this coming summer.
The $72,141 value of the qualifying offer will cut into the Lynx’s cap space, but not to an extent that will prevent them from re-signing any of their free agents to be.
Carleton has had a solid overseas season during her first with Israel’s A.S. Ramat HaSharon. She is second on the team in points (17.5 ppg), rebounds (9.2), steals (1.9), and blocks (0.9) and has helped lead them to a 7-4 record alongside former Washington Mystic and unrestricted free agent Shatori Walker-Kimbrough.