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.
DOG TO BE REWARDED FOR HOT START
PREMIERSHIP midfielder Tom Liberatore has opened talks with the Western Bulldogs on a new contract after a blistering start to 2021.
The 28-year-old, who this year qualifies as an unrestricted free agent, leads the competition in clearances and has been integral in the Dogs' table-topping 3-0 start to the season.
It was only two-and-a-half years ago Liberatore was forced to wait to October to earn a one-year contract at the kennel for 2019 coming off a season ruined by a ruptured ACL in 2018.
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However, after winning a new two-year extension in June 2019 to the end of 2021, the flag hero is on the verge of a fresh multi-year deal.
Skipper Marcus Bontempelli is the Dogs' biggest name free agent this season and is edging towards a new long-term deal that could be announced in coming weeks.
Ruck signing Stefan Martin also qualifies as a free agent and crossed on a one-year deal for 2021. The 34-year-old also holds a games trigger for a second season, one he is on track to meet.
Elsewhere, Geelong midfielder and unrestricted free agent Cameron Guthrie will be in line for a pay bump after a maiden best and fairest in 2020.
Adelaide onballer Matt Crouch, who is expected to qualify as a restricted free agent, told AFL.com.au in January he wouldn't set a timeline on a decision around his future with the Crows.
And, as revealed by AFL.com.au this week, West Coast premiership hero Dom Sheed is closing in on a new deal with the Eagles. - Mitch Cleary
CAPTAINS STILL UNSIGNED
NEARLY half of the competition's captains remain as unsigned free agents, with eight club skippers without deals for 2022.
Carlton is confident Patrick Cripps will soon sign what is likely to be a long-term contract, while last week's Inside Trading revealed Swans co-captain Josh Kennedy is also heading towards a new one-year deal. His co-skipper Luke Parker has started talks with Sydney as well.
Bontempelli, Collingwood's Scott Pendlebury, Brisbane leader Dayne Zorko, Geelong champion Joel Selwood and North Melbourne's Jack Ziebell are the other skippers who are out-of-contract free agents a month into the season.
Since January, when AFL.com.au released its first free agency list of 140 players who qualified this season, a number of priority players have re-signed, including Melbourne captain Max Gawn, Richmond defenders Dylan Grimes and Nick Vlastuin and Kangaroos best and fairest winner Luke McDonald. AFL.com.au can reveal an up-to-date list of free agents below.
The AFL is yet to release its official free agency list to clubs, with the League delaying its banding of restricted and unrestricted free agents due to the revised contracts of many players following list-wide cuts at the end of last season.
Some clubs also opted to change specific players' contracts and backend deals, while at least six clubs asked players for higher than average percentage cuts across the playing groups. – Callum Twomey and Mitch Cleary
SWANS SHOW FAITH IN INJURED BIG MAN
SYDNEY ruckman Sam Naismith has been wiped off the free agency list after quietly signing a contract extension for next year.
Naismith, who is set to resume full training this week after his most recent knee surgery from last year, was due to become a free agent this year but the Swans have added another season to his deal through to the end of 2022.
The luckless 28-year-old underwent his latest round of ACL surgery last July when, playing in his 30th game, he suffered the torn ligament. It followed his first knee reconstruction in the pre-season of 2018 and he also missed the entire 2019 campaign with further complications with his knee.
The Swans rate his impact highly when he is fit, with Naismith playing in the club's 2016 Grand Final loss to the Western Bulldogs and then featuring in 15 games the following season. He is aiming for a return to the field at VFL level within the coming weeks. – Callum Twomey
FROM DELISTED TO CONTRACT EXTENSION IN FOUR MONTHS?
MELBOURNE rookie and surprise free agent James Jordon is poised to clinch a new deal with the Demons just four months after being delisted by the club.
Jordon, 20, was cut by the Demons in November with the promise of being re-rookied under new AFL rules that allowed each club to move two players from the senior list to the rookie list.
However, the ruling still allowed clubs to nab players such as Jordon on a primary list, something that failed to happen.
All players moved to the rookie list under the new rule – such as Hawthorn's Dylan Moore, Carlton's Eddie Betts and Matt Kennedy and Essendon's Marty Gleeson – will be eligible as unrestricted free agents.
Now three games into his AFL career, Jordon is expected to be re-signed in coming weeks.
The midfielder has averaged 17 disposals since debuting in round one and managed to keep his spot last week following the return of vice-captain Jack Viney.
St Kilda forward Tim Membrey also qualified under the 'free agent for life' clause this year after being delisted by Sydney earlier in his career but signed a new three-year deal last month.
Other left-field free agents include this year's Pre-Season Supplemental Selection Period (SSP) signings who had previously been on AFL lists. They include Majak Daw (Melbourne), Oscar McDonald (Carlton), Mason Wood and Paul Hunter (St Kilda), Alec Waterman (Essendon) and Derek Egmolesse-Smith (Richmond). – Mitch Cleary
2021 UPDATED FREE AGENTS LIST
* Previously delisted
^ Previously qualified as a free agent
Matt de Boer*
Brendon Ah Chee*