ESSENDON'S star free agent Zach Merrett will assess the club's direction before making a decision on his future after rivals pursued him last off-season.
The 25-year-old is certain to be one of the highest profile restricted free agents of 2021, with AFL.com.au this week revealing the full free agency list.
2021 FREE AGENTS Check out who is up for grabs
The two-time best and fairest winner considered his options last year as a number of clubs, including Collingwood and Carlton, were linked to him with a year remaining on his contract.
However before the Trade Period Merrett shut down the possibility of a move by publicly committing to remaining with the Bombers for 2021 and seeing out his deal in the red and black.
The Bombers have been keen to lock in Merrett for some time, with the club expressing their desire to sign the 2017 All-Australian to a long-term deal last year.
The gun midfielder is understood to have set no timeline on his contract talks with the club and plans on making an informed decision, with Merrett to see how the new-look Bombers take shape.
Essendon underwent an off-season of change, with coach Ben Rutten officially taking on the reins from John Worsfold, Dan Richardson being replaced by Josh Mahoney as football boss, and key players Joe Daniher, Adam Saad and Orazio Fantasia all quitting the club.
Merrett was axed from the Bombers' leadership group last year but has been reinstated in the four-player group for this season, having impressed the club with his early return to training and presence on the track.
The classy left-footer is considered a loyal player, and has been a huge part of the Bombers' line-up having played 142 out of a possible 152 games since joining the club at the 2013 NAB AFL Draft.
List manager Adrian Dodoro said in December at the Bombers' annual general meeting that the club was hopeful it could tie up Merrett swiftly in 2021.
"I can assure every Essendon fan that we are doing everything possible to make sure we get his signature as soon as possible," Dodoro said.
"We are working with him and his management at the present time and discussions have opened up and we're having a bit of a chat about it at the moment. Hopefully in the new year we can get some good news on that front.
"He's a great player and there's no way we want to lose Zach Merrett, he's a fabulous player."
Merrett is one of seven free agents at Essendon this year, with David Zaharakis, Cale Hooker and Patrick Ambrose also qualifying.
Martin Gleeson, who was a free agent last year, will also be eligible again, while Dylan Clarke and Will Snelling, who have been previously delisted, are also free agents.