ESSENDON has categorically denied it has put a contract offer to Richmond star Dustin Martin.
In response to speculation the Bombers had joined North Melbourne in courting the restricted free agent, and a claim made on radio of a massive offer, the club reacted by issuing a rare statement of denial on its website on Monday night.
"Essendon Football Club can categorically confirm that no offer has been made to Dustin Martin or his management and reports suggesting otherwise are unfounded."
Former Melbourne star David Schwarz said on SEN on Monday, "Essendon are in it up to their eyelids.
"I believe they're frontrunners. (I've heard) $1.6 million."
Essendon chief executive Xavier Campbell said last week the possibility of recruiting Martin had been discussed by the club.
"Dustin is a super talent. He's a genuine matchwinner and we'll see what happens," Campbell told SEN.
"We certainly haven't been to a point where it's been raised outside list management or at a board level, and when it gets to the free agency market, that's a pretty pivotal part of the process.
"It's very preliminary stages with Dustin and there's other players that no doubt, like Dustin, they could add enormous value.
"We're open to exploring all those ways we can add value to our list and we'll continue those discussions."
With clubs set to have around an extra two million dollars in their salary cap when the AFL's pay deal with the Players' Association is reached, the 25-year-old's asking price is expected to have risen after his blistering form this season.
Martin's manager, Ralph Carr, told AFL.com.au earlier this month the Brownlow Medal fancy wouldn't give Richmond an answer on his future until its 2017 campaign was over.
"It's very unlikely that it would be signed before the end of the season, as that's the decision we made six weeks ago," Carr said.