SEVEN Richmond premiership stars headline this year's bumper free agency crop which looms as the best in its decade of existence.
AFL.com.au can reveal 140 players are eligible for free agency this season, including 10 club captains and a host of superstars of the competition.
Jack Riewoldt will become a free agent for the first time, joining Nick Vlastuin, David Astbury, Kamdyn McIntosh, Shane Edwards and Bachar Houli as Tigers up for grabs.
>>Scroll down for the full list of free agents
Triple premiership defender Dylan Grimes also qualifies but is understood to be closing in on a fresh deal to remain at Punt Road beyond 2021.
It looms as the Tigers' toughest test to keep together its successful list after losing just two premiership players (Brandon Ellis and Dan Butler) to rival raids across their three flag years.
Western Bulldogs captain Marcus Bontempelli, Blues co-captain Patrick Cripps and Essendon jet Zach Merrett are first-time free agents as they enter their eighth season at their original clubs out of contract.
They are joined by a host of fellow 2013 NAB AFL Draft products including Giant Josh Kelly, Saint Jack Billings, Roo Luke McDonald, Demon Christian Salem, Eagle Dom Sheed and Crow Matt Crouch.
Skippers Dayne Zorko (Brisbane), Scott Pendlebury (Collingwood), Joel Selwood (Geelong), Max Gawn (Melbourne), Jack Ziebell (North Melbourne) and Luke Parker (Sydney) are also included.
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Former Greater Western Sydney co-captain Callan Ward has been removed from the list after penning an extension with the Giants for 2022.
Collingwood goalkicker Jamie Elliott would have qualified but has hit a trigger for a third season for his contract, seeing him extended through to the end of 2022, while Carlton midfielder Jack Newnes was also originally set to again be a free agent but has also hit a trigger clause tying him to the Blues to the end of next year.
This year's bevy of names can be in part attributed to the uncertainty around future salary caps last year which saw clubs defer extending already contracted players.
Bontempelli, Cripps and Merrett will spearhead the list of restricted free agents who qualify as eight or nine-year players entering free agency for the first time and who sit in the top 25 per cent of their club's earners.
Other players expected to fall into this range include Kelly, Crouch, Billings and Vlastuin.
Bids for restricted free agents can be matched by their existing club – such as the Giants' landmark call on Jeremy Cameron last year which forced the Coleman medallist to seek a trade to Geelong.
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Any players outside the top 25 per cent of earners or who have served 10 years or more at their current club will be eligible as unrestricted free agents.
Players previously delisted or those who have previously qualified as free agents fall into the same bracket.
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St Kilda key target Tim Membrey looms as a fascinating unrestricted free agency case having been delisted from Sydney at the end of 2014 before becoming a regular contributor at the Saints.
Brisbane midfielder Jarryd Lyons also qualifies after moving from Gold Coast to Brisbane as a delisted free agent at the end of 2018.
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Essendon's Dylan Clarke and Carlton's Matt Kennedy, among a host of players delisted and 're-rookied' by their clubs at the end of 2020, are also deemed 'free agents for life'.
Players such as Port Adelaide pair Tom Rockliff and Steven Motlop and Fremantle's Reece Conca, who moved as a free agent and fall out of contract at their new club, are classed as unrestricted free agents.
Free agency was introduced by the AFL in 2012.
2021 FREE AGENTS
* Previously delisted
^ Previously qualified as a free agent
Matt de Boer*
Brendon Ah Chee*