Today's news that the Wizards have given Andray Blatche a contract extension, even though Blatche's existing contract doesn't expire until 2012, definitely came out of left field. In looking back on it, though, it really shouldn't be too surprising. The fact of the matter is that Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld has done this before.
Twice, in fact.
Back in 2004, Grunfeld had the opportunity to give young center Brendan Haywood a contract extension. Had he not, Haywood would have become a restricted free agent the following season. Grunfeld elected to give Haywood a five-year, $25 million contract, and that paid major dividends when Haywood had a career year in 2004-05.
The very next year, Grunfeld faced an even dicier situation with Caron Butler. Before Butler even played a game with the team, Grunfeld signed him to a five-year extension worth around $46-47 million. Butler eventually grew into a two-time all-star, all for less than $10 million per season.
Now, he's done it a third time, locking up Blatche before he could hit the open market. Considering the value of Blatche's deal is "in the ballpark" of the contract for Raptors forward Amir Johnson, who averaged six points and five rebounds in 18 minutes per game last year, it looks like Grunfeld has once again pulled off a coup with an early extension.
Grunfeld certainly has his faults, but clearly, he has become an expert at locking up key players to early extensions that are far below their future market value.