CONTRACTED St Kilda hard-nut Ben Long has become the subject of early trade talks with rival clubs making inquiries as to whether he'd be open to a move away from Moorabbin.
The 24-year-old has one year remaining on a contract with the Saints but was limited to 15 matches this season, including four as the starting sub.
AFL.com.au understands several clubs, including Essendon, have asked the question on exactly where he sits in the Saints' pecking order heading into 2022.
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It's believed Long remains content at the Saints and is keen to fight for his spot in the club's best 22 next season, but it hasn't stopped clubs showing interest.
As a contracted player, any deal for Long would need to suit the Saints, however they have been open in their desire to attack this year's draft.
The Saints hold picks 9, 46 and 65 and want to use their first-round selection, having not taken a player in the first 25 selections in the past two seasons.
Long was drafted by the Saints as a mature-ager at the end of 2016 and started his career in attack under Alan Richardson before shifting to defence for a career-best season in 2020 with new coach Brett Ratten.
With Jack Sinclair's rise as a half-back and Jimmy Webster's return to form, Long was overlooked in the middle stages of this season. He was redeployed as a forward late in the season with clubs taking interest in his pressure in that area.
The Bombers also showed interest in Long, the nephew of club icon Michael, at the end of 2018 before he rebuffed their offer to remain at the Saints. He re-signed on a new three-year deal at the Saints in March 2019 until the end of 2022.
Essendon showed interest in Gold Coast's Malcolm Rosas as a pressure forward this season, however he is on the verge of extending his stay at the Suns.
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Rivals have become aware of Josh Battle's positional uncertainty at the Saints approaching next season, but he appears likely to stay under contract.
Long has been known for his physicality in his time at the Saints and was last year suspended for three matches for rough conduct on Fremantle's Sean Darcy. He also missed the Saints' semi-final against Richmond after failing to have his one-match ban overturned.