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.
CROWS FREE AGENT CONSIDERING OPTIONS
ADELAIDE defender Jake Kelly is on the radar of North Melbourne as the 26-year-old weighs a return back to Victoria.
Kelly is an unrestricted free agent, meaning he can walk to the club of his choice without the Crows being able to match a deal to retain him.
TRADE HUB All the latest player movement news
The tough and uncompromising defender has been linked to a move back to his home state in previous seasons and remains out of contract three weeks after the end of Adelaide's season.
It is understood the Crows have put forward a multi-year contract for him and the club is keen to retain Kelly, who has been a heavily invested member of Adelaide's program.
However it is believed he is also being monitored by the Roos, whose coach David Noble was Adelaide's list manager when Kelly was drafted in 2013.
The Roos bolstered their defence last year by signing free agent Aidan Corr. His season was hit by a toe injury with the former Giant only playing two games this year, with veteran backman Robbie Tarrant
Kelly has played 110 games for the Crows, including 20 this season when he finished seventh in the club's best and fairest.
His brother Will has been on Collingwood's list for the past three seasons where he was a father-son selection with the pair's father Craig a 1990 premiership player with the club.
The Crows last week re-signed midfielder Matt Crouch on a two-year deal but have farewelled veterans Daniel Talia, Tom Lynch and David McKay. – Callum Twomey
PIES LEAD LIPINSKI CHASE
COLLINGWOOD is in pole position to land Western Bulldogs midfielder Patrick Lipinski.
AFL.com.au revealed in August that the 23-year-old was weighing interest from the Magpies and Carlton while also being offered a three-year contract from the Bulldogs.
But the Magpies are understood to be favoured to secure Lipinski, who is out of contract and has been unable to land a permanent spot in the Bulldogs' star-studded midfield.
The Dogs don't want to lose him, as evidenced in their offer which would secure him until the end of 2024, but Lipinski has had limited opportunities this season and been in and out of the line-up.
He has played 56 games for the Dogs after joining the club at the 2016 NAB AFL Draft with pick No.28.
Lewis Young and Roarke Smith also remain out of contract at the Bulldogs, as does the club's vice-captain Mitch Wallis, who has been presented an offer to remain as well. – Callum Twomey
EAGLES SPEARHEAD WEIGHING UP NEXT MOVE
DUAL Coleman medallist Josh Kennedy is weighing up a one-year offer from West Coast to play on in 2022.
The Eagles have made it known to Kennedy they want him to continue next season for a 17th campaign.
The 33-year-old, who last month told Perth's 6PR he was keen to play on, has taken some time out in recent days with family to discuss his next move.
Kennedy booted 41 goals from 18 matches this year to finish one major behind Jack Darling at the top of the Eagles' goalkicking tally.
Other Eagles without confirmed deals for next year include Jarrod Brander and Josh Rotham, plus fellow premiership players Shannon Hurn and Jack Redden.
Liam Duggan is set to sign a new three-year contract to remain with the Eagles until the end of 2024. – Mitch Cleary
CAT CLOSING IN ON NEW DEAL
GEELONG rookie Brad Close is edging towards a fresh two-year extension after an impressive second campaign at AFL level.
Close managed eight games last year after joining the Cats as a mature-age rookie and was re-signed on a one-year deal for 2021.
Friday night's preliminary final will be his 22nd match this year – all in succession – after winning a recall to the senior side in round four.
The 23-year-old has proven a critical cog in the Cats' attack and was picked last week ahead of premiership small forward Luke Dahlhaus.
With AFL rules this year changing to permit a player to spend four years on a rookie list instead of the mandatory three, Close's two years could be served as a rookie to provide the Cats extra list flexibility.
Rookies have the same playing rights as senior-listed players and have no earning cap, but see approximately the first $90,000 of their wage fall outside the salary cap.
Midfielder Cam Guthrie this week re-signed for four years with ruckman Rhys Stanley on the verge of a fresh deal. Close's signature would leave the Cats with 12 players out of contract including Quinton Narkle, Lachie Henderson, Charlie Constable and Zach Guthrie. – Mitch Cleary
SAINTS EXPECTING DUAL CLUB CHAMPION TO STAY
ST KILDA coach Brett Ratten remains confident unrestricted free agent Seb Ross will remain with the club for next season and beyond.
Ross, 28, has been tabled a two-year offer with a trigger for a third season to stay at Moorabbin while his management has been gauging interest from elsewhere.
The market for inside midfielders to move clubs appears to be lean this year with Adelaide onballer Matt Crouch last week accepting a reduced two-year deal to stay with the Crows.
TRADE HUB All the latest player movement news
Ratten said the Saints would likely have an answer in coming days on Ross' future with the club's best and fairest Trevor Barker Award to be staged on Friday.
"(Saints list boss) James Gallahgher is working with Seb's management, but we're pretty confident they'll stay," Ratten told AFL.com.au.
"He's been a great servant, a two-time best and fairest winner and really adds to our group. We'll hear probably in the near future on those calls."
As revealed by AFL.com.au, restricted free agent Jack Billings has a four-year offer in front of him to stay next season.
Luke Dunstan has parted ways with the club on mutual grounds after growing frustrated about life on the edge of senior selection, while Jack Lonie, Paul Hunter and Dean Kent are waiting on formal contract offers.
Ruckman Paddy Ryder will soon sign a one-year deal, while Category B ruckman Sam Alabakis has been delisted. – Mitch Cleary
ZAHARAKIS OPEN TO MOVE, ANOTHER BOMBER TO SIGN ON
AFTER knocking back a big offer to join West Coast at the end of 2017, Essendon's David Zaharakis is open to continuing his career at any club around the competition.
The Bombers did not offer a new contract to the 31-year-old after he managed nine games for the club this season but Zaharakis is keen to continue at AFL level and is happy to look at all options – in and out of Victoria.
Zaharakis remains fit and in good condition after 13 seasons and 226 games at the top level and was well regarded within the Bombers as being a strong clubman.
That loyal commitment to Essendon was on display at the end of 2017 when he declined a long-term deal with the Eagles to remain with the Bombers on a four-year contract.
That came having been one of the club's most senior figures in its wooden spoon season in 2016, with Zaharakis a consistent member of the club's rebuild after the supplements saga dogged the Bombers for a number of years.
Across the past two years the Bombers had deployed the 2011 best and fairest winner in a challenging wing role, with his best game this season coming against North Melbourne in round 10 with 22 disposals and a goal.
Meanwhile Bombers wingman Tom Cutler is closing in on a new deal for next year after reigniting his career in the second half of this season.
The former Brisbane Lion played 13 games for the year, including the final nine games and elimination final, when he gathered 21 disposals against the Western Bulldogs. – Callum Twomey
LIONS' LIST DILEMMA
BRISBANE is facing a delicate scenario with its list structure heading into the off-season with 35 of its current 37 senior-listed players contracted for next year.
Tom Joyce and Brock Smith remain without a 2022 deal with the Lions among the clubs in the tightest predicament for list spots.
Clubs have been informed they must take at least three players in the NAB AFL Draft this season with senior list sizes able to carry a maximum of 38 players.
It means the Lions are unlikely to be able to attract a player from a rival club in the trade and free agency window unless they move on both Joyce and Smith, delist and re-rookie others or trade another player with a deal for 2022.
Should Joyce or Smith win a new deal for next season, it would ensure the Lions would need to delist and re-rookie a player in order to take the adequate picks at the draft.
Midfielder Lachie Neale informed the Lions on Thursday that he was staying for 2022 after spending recent days weighing up a move back to WA.
The ability for a player to stay on the rookie list for a fourth season will ensure the Lions don't have to promote James Madden, who joined in 2019, to the senior list next season.
Rookies Grant Birchall, Connor Ballenden, Archie Smith and Kalin Lane are also uncontracted for next year.
The Lions already hold picks 14, 18, 47 and 51 as it currently stands inside the first three rounds.
Gold Coast is set to be forced into delisting three players and picking them up as rookies given their 38th and final senior-listed player Malcolm Rosas is on the verge of an extension.
Clubs were last year permitted to delist and re-rookie two players and avoid them being up snapped up elsewhere in the rookie draft, however that option has been taken away this off-season. – Mitch Cleary
RECRUITERS EYE PICK NO.20
CLUBS believe pick No.20 could become hot property at this year's NAB AFL Draft as the last chance rivals will claim Next Generation Academy prospects without forcing a bid.
Under new rules this year, clubs will not be able to match bids on Next Generation Academy prospects within the first 20 selections as the AFL makes that a 'protected zone' of the draft.
From pick No.21 to 40, clubs can match bids under the usual Academy and father-son bidding system and after pick 40 are able to match with their next available pick.
CAL TWOMEY'S AUGUST FORM GUIDE Best draft prospects ranked
But it means there could be a rush on draft night for clubs trying to trade up to pick 20 to ensure they get full access to a NGA player without that prospect's holder club getting a chance to match the bid.
St Kilda pair Marcus Windhager and Mitchito Owens shape as the most likely NGA prospects to push into top-20 contention outside of Melbourne's Mac Andrew, who appears certain to attract a top-15 bid and be unavailable for the Demons.
Holding pick No.20 could be an added bonus for this year's premiers, with their No.18 pick likely to be bumped back two spots due to earlier bids on father-son pair Nick Daicos (Collingwood) and Sam Darcy (Western Bulldogs). The fluid draft order means who holds pick 20 could shift as the night goes on but the protected zone will stop at No.20 no matter how many bids are made.
The draft will this year return to a two-night affair with the first round taking place on the opening night before the rest of the draft the following evening.
That format at the 2018-19 drafts saw the first pick of the second round be extremely sought after by clubs who wanted to trade up the board to grab players who had fallen through the first night. Brisbane essentially traded a future-second round pick to Port Adelaide to move up one spot in 2019 to grab Deven Robertson. – Callum Twomey