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Nathan Schmook  January 28, 2016 4:34 PM

AFL 2014 Rd 11 - Essendon v Richmond

Matt Dea has joined Essendon as a top-up player

FORMER Richmond defender Matt Dea has earned another AFL chance, signing with Essendon as a top-up player for 2016.

Dea, who won the Tigers' VFL best and fairest last season, is the fourth player recruited by the Bombers this month, joining Ryan Crowley, James Kelly and Jonathan Simpkin.

The 24-year-old put pen to paper on Thursday, potentially extending his 31-game career after the Tigers delisted him at the end of last season.

He had signed with VFL club Williamstown for 2016.

Dea was recruited with pick No.44 in the 2009 NAB AFL Draft and managed seven games across his first two seasons before becoming an AFL regular in 2012.

He slipped back out of favour, however, and was a senior emergency in the final eight rounds of 2014 before failing to play a senior game in 2015.

Dea averaged 20 possessions in 15 VFL games last season and was particularly influential in the air, averaging six marks and ranking No.2 in the competition for contested marks in defensive 50.

The Bombers can sign another six new recruits on one-year contracts to cover the loss of the 12 players banned for the season for anti-doping breaches.

The club has until March 15 to finalise all new signings, with Geelong premiership player Mathew Stokes expected to be the next player contracted.