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Jermaine Jones departing? What happens now?

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It looks like Jermaine may be on his way to Los Angeles. How does that work?

MLS: Playoffs-Los Angeles Galaxy at Colorado Rapids Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

As reported earlier, it looks pretty likely that the Los Angeles Galaxy are courting current Rapids midfielder and USMNT stalwart Jermaine Jones to join their team for the 2017. Jermaine has had one foot out the door since a tweet about being a ‘free agent’ earlier this month.

So, how does this all work exactly?

For starters, Jermaine isn’t exactly a ‘free agent’ - at least not within MLS. Major League Soccer’s collective bargaining agreement (CBA), signed last year with the MLS Players Association, granted players that are at least 28 years old with at least 8 years MLS service time a limited form of free agency within MLS. Jones is not eligible; despite being 35 years old, JJ has only 3 years within MLS.

The Rapids signed Jermaine to a 1-year contract which expired with the conclusion of the 2016 season, according to a report, and the Rapids do not hold a club option to continue his stay in Commerce City.

That doesn’t mean Jermaine can just pack his bags for LA. There are a few ways this whole thing could go down.

First, the Rapids need to decided to either extend or not extend a bona fide offer to Jermaine. If they do, and he takes it, he still plays for Colorado. Based on Jermaine’s excitement about free agency and his court-side seats at the Lakers game last night, that seems unlikely.*

But if the offer is good enough to be rated by MLS as bona fide and Jones turns it down, then a second possible outcome occurs: he enters the MLS Re-Entry draft. Stage 1 of that draft, for players with an offer on the table, will be held in just one week, on Friday, December 16. As a result of their performance in the 2016 season, the Galaxy have the 16th pick. That’s not great if they want to guarantee that they get Jermaine; they may need to trade up using cash or draft picks to a better spot, like #1 or #2, held by Chicago and Houston, if they want JJ.

A third possibility is that LA and Colorado make a ‘sign and trade’ deal: LA, Colorado, Jermaine Jones, and his agent sit down a craft a deal. LA and Jermaine’s agent agree to his salary for 2017 (and beyond?). LA and Colorado agree to a swap of something small in exchange for Jermaine’s rights. Colorado ‘signs’ JJ, and immediately trades him to the Galaxy. This would all (I think?) need to transpire before the Re-Entry draft.

All of this also might necessitate Colorado protecting Jermaine in the Expansion Draft (on December 13), so those rights don’t end up in Minnesota. Otherwise, a fourth possibility emerges: Minnesota or Atlanta could take JJ in the expansion draft, knowing he wants to be LA, and then trade his rights to LA for picks or cash.

A fifth and final possibility is that Colorado say ‘buh-bye’ and don’t bother to make JJ an offer, and that he isn’t taken by Atlanta or Minnesota for some reason, and he ends up in Stage 2 of the Re-Entry Draft, where teams that pick players can start from scratch on the terms of a contract, instead of having to match the contract offer of a players previous team. This is often the case for players that are to-be signed for lesser amounts than a previous contract; I don’t see that as likely in this case.

And there you have it: a pretty good, if convoluted, roundup of the possible ways for Jermaine Jones to get from Denver to LA. You can’t say MLS doesn’t keep things interesting.

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* The source for a lot of this info is from two recent articles on mlssoccer.com, here and here, and also the extended, complicated MLS contract and roster rules, here.