Every Thursday this season AFL.com.au will present Inside Trading, with breaking news and the best analysis of the player movement landscape covering contracts, trades, free agents, the NAB AFL Draft and industry insights. 

TOP SWAN TO GO ON

SYDNEY co-captain Josh Kennedy is heading towards a one-year contract extension in a further boost to the Swans' impressive start to the season.

Kennedy qualifies as a free agent for the Swans this year but the veteran is in discussions for a new deal that will tie him to the club until the end of 2022.

The 2012 premiership midfielder, who turns 33 in June, gathered 27 disposals in the Swans' win over Adelaide on Saturday and is understood to be on track for the extension.

Swans veteran Josh Kennedy in action against the Crows in round two, 2021. Picture: Getty Images

Kennedy has been a mainstay of the Swans' midfield since crossing to the club at the end of 2009, playing 247 games for the red and white in a glittering career that has included three All-Australian jumpers and three best and fairests.

He has been captain of the Swans since 2016 and shares the role with Dane Rampe and Luke Parker, with Parker also out of contract at the end of this season.

Swans defender Tom McCartin is also tipped to soon sign what is expected to be a two-year contract extension with the club. - Callum Twomey

BOMBERS MIDFIELDER HEADED FOR NEW DEAL

ESSENDON midfielder Brayden Ham is set to be rewarded with a fresh deal less than six months after being held in contract limbo by the club. 

Ham has been one of few shining lights in the Bombers' dismal start to 2021 and is closing in on a contract extension that is expected to be announced in coming weeks. 

The 21-year-old played 10 matches in his second AFL campaign last year, and despite interest from rival clubs, signed a one-year deal at Tullamarine two months after the completion of the season. 

The speedy wingman had 434 metres gained from just 15 disposals in last week's loss to Port Adelaide and will only get further opportunity with injury setbacks to Dylan Shiel and Jye Caldwell.

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Ham gives Bombers a slice of the goals

Essendon move the ball inside 50 and Brayden Ham finishes with the goal

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Talks are also underway for what is likely to be a two-year extension for young forward Harrison Jones, who made his debut in round one for the Bombers.

Essendon has high hopes for Jones with the athletic marking forward impressing in his first game against Hawthorn. - Mitch Cleary and Callum Twomey

YOUNG GUNS REMAIN UNSIGNED

EIGHT of 2019's first-round picks from the 2019 NAB AFL Draft remain without deals beyond this season.

In an unusual situation, nearly half of the top flight group are yet to extend past 2021.

Discussions have opened for Greater Western Sydney's Lachie Ash (pick four) and Sydney's Dylan Stephens (pick five) although not progressed far, while Adelaide's Fischer McAsey (pick six) has been weighing a contract extension for some months but has not recommitted.

Giants youngster Lachie Ash in action against the Dockers in round two. Picture: Daniel Carson, AFL Photos

Gold Coast's Sam Flanders (pick 11) has broken through for five senior games in his time at the club but talks for a new deal aren't likely until deeper into the season, while Western Bulldogs forward Cody Weightman (pick 15) and Geelong midfielder Cooper Stephens (pick 16) are also not yet locked in beyond this year, with Stephens currently sidelined with an ankle injury.

Carlton's Brodie Kemp (pick 17), who is recovering from a syndesmosis injury after his knee reconstruction, is also unsigned, likewise Richmond midfielder Thomson Dow (pick 21).

Clubs regularly tie up their first-round draft picks with two-year extensions often as soon as they arrive at AFL level however the post-COVID landscape of smaller lists, a reduced salary cap and uncertainty on the players' next collective bargaining agreement means that these decisions have been pushed back. - Callum Twomey and Mitch Cleary

ACADEMY PROSPECTS TO RECEIVE EXTRA CERTAINTY

CLUBS have been told they will regain the rights to Academy-tied over-age prospects in this season's NAB AFL Draft, should they not be recruited to a rival team during the upcoming Mid-Season Rookie Draft.

The decision comes as a handful of clubs continue to monitor the development of athletic 202cm ruckman and Giants academy member Jack Driscoll, who will turn 19 next week and was among the standouts for the Murray Bushrangers in a NAB League practice match last month.

Jack Driscoll flies during the Northern Academy Series match between the Swans and the Giants at North Dalton Park in August, 2020. Picture: AFL Photos

Versatile 193cm Western Jets defender Cody Raak, who last year was eligible to be recruited to the Western Bulldogs as part of its Next Generation Academy program, is another who has shot into prominence recently following a dominant 31-disposal performance in last week's NAB League season-opener.

It leaves a host of draft hopefuls with an added layer of certainty ahead of both the mid-season and national drafts, with clubs set to regain their ability to win first access to overage Academy-tied players should they not land a spot on a rival club's rookie list throughout the year.

Previously in 2019 when the Mid-Season Rookie Draft was reintroduced, overage prospects still involved in either Northern Academy or NGA programs could not nominate for the mid-season draft unless they cut all Academy ties.

That means the likes of Driscoll and Raak, among others, can this year elect to nominate for the Mid-Season Rookie Draft, where they could be recruited to any AFL club across the country, and still remain Academy-tied for November's NAB AFL Draft.

A high number of 19-year-old prospects are expected to return to NAB League and junior programs across the country this season after the impact of COVID-19 on competitions last year. - Riley Beveridge. 

CATS WIN APPROVAL FOR YOUNG RUCKMAN TO PLAY NAB LEAGUE

PROJECT Geelong ruckman Paul Tsapatolis will start the season playing in the NAB League to further aid his development after recently crossing to football. 

The Cats signed the 18-year-old as a Category B rookie in November having represented Australia in basketball just 12 months prior. 

Now as he continues to learn the ropes of the game he last played as a 15-year-old, Tsapatolis has been granted permission to play for the Western Jets to begin 2021. 

Tsapatolis, who turns 19 in June, falls into the age limit for the NAB League this year which will allow 19-year-olds to play after last season was wiped out due to COVID-19. The competition previously had a cap on the number of players aged over 18. 

Paul Tsapatolis during a Geelong training session at GMHBA Stadium on December 8, 2020. Picture: AFL Photos

The 202cm ruck prospect has enjoyed a full summer on the training track for the Cats and played his first match for the Jets last Saturday night – collecting eight disposals and 24 hitouts. 

Tsapatolis, who has Greek heritage, signed a two-year deal with the Cats but not before interest from rival clubs including a last-minute bid from Essendon. 

Tsapatolis can be recalled to Geelong's VFL program at any point throughout the season, with Darcy Fort and Rhys Stanley expected to battle it out for the spot as the club's No.1 ruckman this year. 

Fort, who last year inked a new deal until 2022, has now played two VFL practices matches after a pre-season knee injury, will be looking to dislodge the out-of-contract Stanley in coming weeks. - Mitch Cleary