Every Thursday AFL.com.au presents Inside Trading, with breaking news and the best analysis of the Continental Tyres AFL Trade Period covering contracts, re-signings, free agents, the NAB AFL Draft and industry insights.
BOMBERS ZERO IN ON TIGERS FREE AGENT
ESSENDON has doubled down on its interest in Mabior Chol, attempting to lure the Richmond ruck/forward across town in a move that won't cost a single pick.
AFL.com.au understands the Bombers have set their sights on Chol who this year qualifies as an unrestricted restricted free agent where he is able to walk to his club of choice.
Chol is one of 77 free agents still up for grabs as clubs prepare for the off-season.
The 24-year-old's career-best performance in Richmond's Dreamtime win in Perth this year provided plenty of consideration for the Bombers as he collected 19 disposals to go with 19 hitouts playing as the Tigers' No.1 ruckman.
The Queenslander has a number of suitors from across the competition including Gold Coast.
Should he land at Tullamarine he would be seen as a foil for emerging ruckman Sam Draper who has this year shared the ruck duties with forward Peter Wright.
Even after re-signing key trio Zach Merrett, Darcy Parish and Jake Stringer, the Bombers have room to move in their salary cap after losing Joe Daniher, Orazio Fantasia and Adam Saad last year.
Chol qualifies as a free agent having previously been delisted by the Tigers and re-rookied at the end of 2018. Should he move, the Tigers would receive a free agency compensation pick dependent on the size of his new deal.
Geelong's Cam Guthrie, St Kilda's Seb Ross and Sydney's Luke Parker headline the remaining unrestricted free agents currently out of contract for 2022.
Guthrie is closing in on a fresh deal, Ross has been recently surveying his options, while Parker and the Swans have been some distance apart on the length of contract up for grabs in the Harbour City.
Elsewhere, West Coast's Josh Kennedy is keen to play on but is yet to be offered a deal, while, as reported by AFL.com.au, Grant Birchall is in preliminary talks with Brisbane on the possibility of a 2022 contract.
Western Bulldogs vice-captain Mitch Wallis is assessing the market after being restricted to just six games this season.
Robbie Gray (Port Adelaide), Matt Parker (Richmond), Mitch Robinson (Brisbane), Scott Pendlebury (Collingwood), Jake Kelly (Adelaide), Robbie Tarrant (North Melbourne), Jamaine Jones (West Coast) and Dylan Moore (Hawthorn) are all set to extend their stays.
Restricted free agents Jack Billings (St Kilda) and Matt Crouch (Adelaide) have offers to stay, while George Hewett(Sydney) has received interest from Carlton. – Mitch Cleary
COULD SAINTS TALL LAND ELSEWHERE?
CLUBS believe contracted St Kilda swingman Josh Battle could be up for grabs this off-season after having his name raised in recent trade talks.
AFL.com.au understands Battle's management has tested the waters with several clubs to gauge interest in the 22-year-old.
Battle played the first 14 matches of the season before he was relegated to sub duties for two weeks, only for a season-ending foot injury to emerge at training.
He signed a two-year deal last August until the end of 2022 and any move would require the Saints agreeing to a trade.
Battle completed his exit interview at the Saints in recent days where it's understood no talk of a breaking his contract were discussed with the club.
Already fighting for his position in the second half of the season, Battle's round one hopes at St Kilda next year would appear only harder given the emergence of talls Cooper Sharman (forward) and Tom Highmore (back) to finish the campaign.
The 193cm Battle has played 56 games for the Saints split between attack and defence since being selected with pick No.39 in the 2016 NAB AFL Draft. – Mitch Cleary
FREE AGENT WEIGHS UP OFFER
JACK Billings has a four-year contract offer in front of him from St Kilda as the restricted free agent considers his future.
The 26-year-old midfielder is viewed as more likely to remain with the club that he has played 144 games for since joining at the end of 2013.
The deal put forward by the Saints would tie Billings to the club until the end of 2025, when he will be 30.
Billings endured some injury setbacks this season, playing through a plantar fascia foot injury and then finishing his campaign on the sidelines with a hamstring strain.
He remains a key player for the club as a versatile wingman/half-forward who can hit the scoreboard and averaged 20 disposals this year.
Unrestricted free agent Seb Ross remains unsigned for next year while the club will not offer midfielder Luke Dunstan a new deal despite his rise in form across the second half of the season. – Callum Twomey
MAGPIE FACES UNCERTAIN WAIT
COLLINGWOOD forward Josh Thomas will need to wait until the end of the Continental Tyres AFL Trade Period before knowing if he will get a new deal at the club despite being a regular member of the Magpies' side this year.
Thomas is out of contract at the Magpies after playing 20 games this season and booting 12 goals.
The club went through its exit meetings earlier this week with Thomas to face an uncertain wait before knowing if he will be retained, with the 29-year-old keen for a one-year extension.
The Pies' search for a new coach is also likely to be a factor in a number of list management decisions, with key forward/ruck Mason Cox expected to look elsewhere for opportunities and midfielder Brayden Sier also unsigned.
Trey Ruscoe hasn't penned a new deal but is expected to after a promising end to the season while rookie Jack Ginnivan will also earn a contract extension after an exciting finish at AFL level.
Captain Scott Pendlebury this week confirmed he will sign on at the club for a 17th season. – Callum Twomey
BLUES PAIR SET TO SIGN ON
CARLTON pair Brodie Kemp and Jack Silvagni are closing in on new two-year deals.
Kemp has endured a challenging start to his career, missing his first season at AFL level following his draft year after a knee reconstruction and then suffering a syndesmosis ankle injury in the pre-season of this year.
He broke through for his AFL debut in round 22 and played the Blues' final two games and shapes as a valuable utility for the club.
The Bendigo Pioneers product was pick No.17 in the 2019 NAB AFL Draft and is alongside Sydney's Dylan Stephens, the No.5 pick, as the only remaining first-round selections who haven't yet committed beyond their initial standard two-year contract.
Silvagni, who has undergone off-season hip surgery, was forced to wait until deep into his career-best season to be given a new two-year contract offer but is expected to stay until at least the end of 2023.
Ruckman Marc Pittonet has signed on until the end of 2023 in an important signing for the club's ruck division.
Carlton has a number of players who remain unsigned for next year, including forward Michael Gibbons, No.6 draft pick Sam Petrevski-Seton and half-back Nic Newman, who is likely to win a new deal. Rookie Josh Honey and Matt Owies are also expected to win new deals while Matt Cottrell must wait to know about his place on the list. – Callum Twomey, Riley Beveridge
HOPPER TO WAIT BEFORE MAKING CONTRACT CALL
GREATER Western Sydney's gun midfielder Jacob Hopper will wait until after the Giants' finals campaign to make a final call on his contract.
Hopper is out of contract at the end of what has been a career-best season in the club's engine room. The Giants are confident he will stay and rivals expect him to pen a two-year deal through to free agency at the end of 2023.
But the 24-year-old remains unsigned and one of the best players in the AFL without a deal for next year.
He told AFL.com.au this week that he didn't want any distractions as the Giants returned to the finals.
"I made a decision at the start of the year that, with everything that went on last year, to just commit to this year and all the processes and really just crack in and have a really strong year and win as many games as we can. Then we got to Melbourne and everything was crazy and it put everything on the backburner a bit," he said.
"It feels like a pretty stock standard answer but I'm super happy with everything, the club is really happy and comfortable and management is really happy as well. It's just one of those things where I'm locked in on finals right now and going as far as we can and make this whole journey of being away from home this whole time really worth it.
"It feels like there's no rush at the minute. It's one of those things where we've got a massive game this weekend and I don't want to distract anything or anyone and just get to work."
'IT WAS REALLY UNLUCKY' Hopper on THAT smother, and why he'll never change
Asked if he was keen to stay at the Giants, Hopper, who was named in the Therabody AFL All-Australian squad this week, said he was relishing the club's environment.
"I've loved my time in Sydney. I've super settled in Balmain and I love the club and I thoroughly enjoy playing footy with all the boys who are here," he said. – Callum Twomey
FUTURE OF EAGLES TALL UNCLEAR, VETERAN OFFERED DEAL
WEST Coast is still yet to enter contract talks with out-of-contract tall Jarrod Brander, whose future at the club is unclear.
Brander established himself in the Eagles' best team in the first half of the season as a hard-running wingman and engaged in promising conversations around his future.
But a back injury interrupted the 22-year-old's season and he played just two games after round 11, including the round 23 loss to Brisbane.
Midfielder Jack Redden has received a one-year contract offer after an excellent 2021 season that should see him finish on the podium in the Eagles' best and fairest.
Redden averaged 24.6 disposals and ranked No.2 at the Eagles for overall tackles this season, stepping up in an injury-hit midfield to play 18 games in a variety of inside and outside roles.
The 30-year-old, who finished second in the best and fairest in the 2018 premiership season, is viewed as a crucial component to a star-studded midfield that never fully clicked in 2021.
While the Eagles will speak with champion pair Josh Kennedy and Shannon Hurn in the coming weeks, several Eagles could have to wait until the club's WAFL season is finished next month before their futures become clear. – Nathan Schmook
NAISH'S NEXT MOVE
IF NOT for Collingwood's off-the-charts hectic trade period and salary cap struggles last year, Patrick Naish would likely have been a Magpie this season.
The Richmond father-son, who was this week delisted by the Tigers, attracted the interest of the Magpies last off-season with a year to run on his deal at Punt Road.
But with the Magpies' priority to ease their bulging salary cap and occupied in offloading Adam Treloar, Jaidyn Stephenson and Tom Phillips in deals late in the piece, the chance to nab Naish fell away.
But clubs will again be looking at Naish this off-season given they will be able to grab him as a delisted free agent, with the 22-year-old playing six games for the Tigers this year. He finished with a total of nine senior appearances after joining the club at the 2017 draft.
The hard-working wingman is a terrific user of the footy and averaged 29 disposals and a goal at VFL level this season and will be ready for his next opportunity. – Callum Twomey
COULD GWS SPRING A BIDDING SURPRISE?
WILL the Giants bid on Collingwood father-son prospect Nick Daicos with the Magpies' own pick?
It is now a live chance of happening after the Magpies fell to second-last on the ladder, with their prized No.2 draft pick in Greater Western Sydney's hands after a trade between the clubs during last year's draft.
In that deal, the Giants swapped their pick 24, 30 and a future fourth-round pick for 2021 for Collingwood's first-round selection this year. None of the parties expected the Pies to fall so dramatically but it leaves the Giants with the potential to bid on Daicos, the extremely talented midfielder who has had a stunning draft campaign.
INDICATIVE DRAFT ORDER Top 10 locked in, your club's picks
But the Giants may look to bid on another father-son – Western Bulldogs prospect Sam Darcy, the son of former ruckman Luke – ahead of Daicos if both are available at their choice. Darcy is a 204cm key forward who has starred this season, including a six-goal haul for Vic Metro in an under-19s trial game.
Giants recruiting manager Adrian Caruso told AFL.com.au's Road to the Draft podcast last month the club would likely favour Darcy if both father-sons are available.
"Our philosophy has always been to rank the players where you think they would sit in the pool and if they're around at your pick then you bid. We definitely don't bid on guys we haven't done the work on or bid for the sake of bidding to keep others accountable, I don't really believe in that," Caruso said.
"We've made bids on Nick Blakey and Isaac Quaynor in the past but if we don't rate the player we won't bid. I don't think that philosophy will change at the top end. Looking at it in terms of our list, we would need someone like a Sam Darcy more than a Daicos, so I'd be a bit more inclined to have Darcy ahead based on our list needs and how hard it is to find a tall.
"Whether or not they're still available at our pick time will tell and whether or not we bid, time will tell. We might in the end just like someone else better." – Callum Twomey