LACHIE Neale's front-ended, five-year contract will provide yet another layer to his intriguing trade value should he follow through with a request back to Fremantle.
Neale, 28, told the Lions on Monday he would need further time to weigh up asking for a formal return to WA, having privately considered it with his pregnant wife for several weeks.
The Lions were sent packing after losing Saturday night's semi-final in what was Neale's third consecutive finals series since his move from the Dockers at the end of 2018.
Now 60 per cent of his way through a deal averaged at approximately $800,000 per season, it's understood more than 70 per cent of the contract has already been paid.
It is likely to see the Lions demand more in a trade given they've already paid a large portion of his money ahead of his planned reduction across his final two seasons.
Already a Brownlow medallist and two-time Therabody AFL All-Australian, a trade at this stage of Neale's contract would essentially be unfavourable to the Lions at a typical market rate as they are about to 'cash in' on the lighter seasons of his contract.
It is a similar scenario to that of former Lions captain Dayne Beams who requested a trade back to Collingwood at the end of 2018, having served four of the six years of a heavily front-ended contract. The Lions demanded, and landed, two first-round picks as a result of the deal with the Pies for the then 28-year-old.
Neale arrived in the same off-season as Beams departed with the Lions far better equipped with salary cap room than their current situation. Having finished bottom-four for the previous five seasons and with the third-youngest list in the competition, the Lions had more space to accommodate Neale's money up front.
With first-round picks Hugh McCluggage, Cam Rayner, Zac Bailey, Jarrod Berry, Brandon Starcevich and Eric Hipwood all 21 and younger, the structure of the list build saw more handed to Neale earlier to make room for the emerging guns to be paid in 2022 and beyond. It also helped the Lions secure free agent Joe Daniher on a deal upwards of $800,000 per season at the end of last year.
Beams cost the Pies two first-round picks in 2018 with Bryce Gibbs' move from Carlton to Adelaide a year earlier also netting the Blues the same. Like Neale, both were under contract.
Neale's potential move comes at the same age as both players and with a more decorated resume. While it could be argued the Pies and Crows overpaid, the going rate dictates a minimum of two first-rounders for such a player.
Right now, the Dockers hold pick eight and are expected to attain Carlton's pick six in a deal to send Adam Cerra to the Blues.
While both picks would add up to a higher value higher than the first-rounders Collingwood and Adelaide gave up, the question the Dockers will need to ask is: 'How much better is our former two-time best and fairest?'
The question the Lions will need to ask, if a trade request comes is: 'How much can we afford to let Neale go for given what is owing on a deal we previously paid pick six and 22 to secure?'
Bryce Gibbs (28yo) – Carlton to Adelaide, 2017
Blues got: Pick 10, 16, 70, 2018 second-round pick (33)
Crows got: Gibbs, pick 77, 2018 second-round pick (24), 2018 third round pick (44)
Dayne Beams (28yo) – Brisbane to Collingwood, 2018
Pies got: Beams, pick 41, 44
Lions got: Pick 21, 56, 2019 first-round pick (18)
Lachie Neale (25yo) – Fremantle to Brisbane, 2018
Lions got: Neale, pick 36
Dockers got: Pick 6, 22, 54
Dylan Shiel (25yo) – GWS to Essendon, 2018
Bombers got: Shiel, 2019 second-round pick (42)
Giants got: Pick 9, 2019 first-round pick (14)
Tim Kelly (25yo) – Geelong to West Coast, 2019
Eagles got: Kelly, pick 52, 2020 third-round pick (via Essendon)
Cats got: Pick 16, 27, 42, 2020 first-round pick (18)