JORDAN Ridley's impending re-signing at Essendon means the Bombers will have locked away one of their priority players but the club still has nearly half of its list without deals for 2021.
As reported by AFL.com.au last week, Ridley is close to committing to a new long-term deal, likely four years, after enjoying a breakout season.
Brisbane had been linked to the talented half-back, who is tipped to win Essendon's best and fairest and will also come into Virgin Australia All-Australian consideration, but the Bombers will lock in the 21-year-old potentially through to his free agency.
After Ridley, Essendon still has a number of important re-signings to ink as it nears the end of the home and away season.
No.1 pick Andrew McGrath is enjoying an excellent season in the midfield and was crucial to the Bombers' win over Hawthorn last week, and is heading towards a two-year contract extension.
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Talks haven't progressed on a new deal for speedy half-back Adam Saad, who is out of contract at the end of this season, his third at the club since departing Gold Coast.
Saad has been shifted into a number of different roles in Essendon's defence this season but has been one of the Bombers' most consistent players since joining the club at the end of 2017.
Discussions on a long-term deal had started for Saad before the COVID-19 contract pause was undertaken by clubs.
The big wait for the Bombers also sits with restricted free agent Joe Daniher, whose brilliant return to the top level last week reminded clubs of his match-winning talents after three injury-plagued seasons.
The performance should ensure that if Daniher does depart as a restricted free agent that the compensation pick will be strong, but the Bombers are still hopeful of him remaining with the club.
The Bombers are expected to prioritise their four key re-signing targets before moving on to their next group of unsigned players ahead of the off-season.
Ruckman Tom Bellchambers is considering whether this year will be his last at AFL level, while Martin Gleeson, Will Snelling, Shaun McKernan, Mitch Hibberd and Jacob Townsend are also unrestricted free agents.
Kyle Langford is having a career-best season but remains without a deal for next year, while Jayden Laverde explored his options at the end of last season and was starting to hit form before his ankle injury earlier this year.
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Discussions have opened for an extension for key forward James Stewart, who has broken back into the senior side in recent weeks, kicking six goals in his past four games.
Youngsters Brayden Ham and Irving Mosquito have broken into the side this year but are looking for contract extensions, while Kobe Mutch, Noah Gown and Josh Begley are also without deals for beyond this season.
The Bombers are tipped to target more midfield depth this off-season to add to their squad under incoming senior coach Ben Rutten.