Jefferson, entering his fourth season, is eligible to sign up to a six-year extension, which would kick in for the start of the 2008-09 season. He already is on the books to earn a little more than $2.48 million this season, which ranks him seventh on the Celtics' pay scale after Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Theo Ratliff, Kendrick Perkins, Brian Scalabrine, and Sebastian Telfair.
The Celtics and Jefferson have until late October to see if they can come to an agreement. If not, Jefferson becomes a restricted free agent at the end of the season. Perkins was in the same situation last year and signed for four years, the first of which is this season, and $16.2 million.
The alternative is to wait and see -- and that's not such a bad scenario for either side. It gives the Celtics another year to observe Jefferson and to make sure they have the Big Al who averaged a double-double and who finished sixth in the voting for Most Improved Player. If he continues along those lines, he will be a valued commodity in restricted free agency, but the Celtics would have the right to match any offer to keep him. It might cost them more, but a team would likely have to have $10 million or so of cap space and target Jefferson. Is there such a team? It's too early to say.
Personally I vote for locking him up now if he'll take less than the max. He won't take less if he plays like he did at the end of the season.