ESSENDON has moved to lock down Jordan Ridley, who has become one of the club's priority re-signings after an exciting start to 2020.
Ridley is out of contract at the end of this year but it is believed talks are underway between the Bombers and his manager Nick Gieschen, who has crossed to Connors Sports Management.
The 21-year-old is one of the most improved players in the competition, having played every game so far this season in Essendon's defence.
Ridley has averaged 17 disposals and seven marks to become a crucial part of the Bombers' back half with his excellent disposal and intercept ability.
After some injury struggles early in his career and managing only nine games in his first three seasons with Essendon, Ridley has risen into a key part of Essendon's future and will be rewarded for his form with his next deal.
He has joined the likes of Andrew McGrath, Adam Saad and Joe Daniher as the Bombers' most pressing contracts to confirm in the coming months.
The club had started negotiations on a long-term deal for Saad, potentially four years, before the COVID-19 contract freeze was put in place by the AFL in March.
Things have not progressed since then on an extension for Saad, who has finished in the top four of Essendon's best and fairest in his two seasons with the club and shapes as a possible first-time Virgin Australia AFL All Australian this year.
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McGrath looks set to benefit from the contract freeze having shown his worth as one of the Bombers' key midfielders this season and upped his stocks.
The Bombers have nearly half of their list out of contract as they enter what shapes as a busy few months for list management teams across the competition.
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Tom Bellchambers, Martin Gleeson, Will Snelling, Shaun McKernan, Mitch Hibberd and Jacob Townsend are all unrestricted free agents, while Brayden Ham, Kyle Langford and Jayden Laverde are other senior regulars without new deals for next year.
Forward James Stewart as well as youngsters Josh Begley, Noah Gown, Irving Mosquito and Kobe Mutch are also unsigned for 2021.
The future of restricted free agent Daniher remains up in the air after the key forward's latest injury setback delaying his return to the field, while Orazio Fantasia contemplated a move to Port Adelaide last year but is contracted for 2021, when he will reach free agency.
Speedy half-back Conor McKenna has also recently reiterated he will make a decision at the end of the year whether he stays at Essendon, where he is contracted for 2021, or returns home to Ireland.