Carlton co-captain Patrick Cripps' future continues to be at the centre of speculation.
The star midfielder remains unsigned beyond the 2021 season when he can become a restricted free agent, while the Blues have several key list management decisions to make over the next 12 months.
The Blues also have current Coleman Medal leader Harry McKay coming out of contract, while star midfielder Sam Walsh's deal expires at the end of 2022. Could it force them to let Cripps go?
On Monday night, conflicting reports emerged surrounding West Coast's potential interest in the Blues on-baller.
According to Channel 7 reporter Tom Browne, the Eagles are keen to lure Cripps back to Western Australia but have salary cap issues.
Browne said that the Eagles would need to clear cap space to accommodate for Cripps and believes they could look to offload injury-plagued star Elliot Yeo.
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"West Coast is circling Patrick Cripps. The issue is salary space. I’m told they’d look at trading Yeo with OP concerns, but it’d be difficult to clear his $800,000," Browne tweeted.
West Coast is circling Patrick Cripps. The issue is salary space. I’m told they’d look at trading Yeo with OP concerns, but it’d be difficult to clear his $800,000.
— Tom Browne (@TomBrowne7) May 10, 2021
However, fellow Channel 7 journalist Ryan Daniels rubbished such claims, declaring that Yeo is "very much a required player" at West Coast and the Eagles aren't interested in Cripps.
"In relation to reports tonight regarding Elliot Yeo and Patrick Cripps. I’m reliably told Elliot Yeo is very much a required player at @WestCoastEagles, and the Eagles are not in pursuit of Patrick Cripps," Daniels tweeted.
In relation to reports tonight regarding Elliot Yeo and Patrick Cripps.
— Ryan Daniels (@FootyRhino) May 10, 2021
The Eagles have also publicly responded to the link, with football boss Craig Vozzo on Tuesday declaring Yeo is an "integral part of our team" and laughing off suggestions they are chasing Cripps.
“It was more around Elliot Yeo - he’s an integral part of our team, multiple best and fairest winner and a leader for us,” Vozzo told reporters.
“Patrick Cripps is a tremendous player but I’m not here to talk about list management.”
“It was more around Elliot Yeo - he’s an integral part of our team, multiple best and fairest winner and a leader for us. Patrick Cripps is a tremendous player but I’m not here to talk about list management.”
Vozzo clarifies around previous Cripps trade rumour
— West Coast Eagles (@WestCoastEagles) May 11, 2021
Channel Nine journalist Sam McClure said on Footy Classified later that night that Carlton are currently paying 105 per cent of the salary cap, meaning their books are effectively maxed out.
McKay is reportedly earning just over the average AFL player's wage - around $400,000 - whose price tag will more than double when he signs his new contract.
Port Adelaide great Kane Cornes believes the Blues must be prepared to let Cripps go and should not overpay him.
"You've got to be prepared to lose him (Cripps,), that's what Carlton have to do," Cornes said on Footy Classified.
"I said six weeks ago on this show that $750k is about the right figure (to pay him).
"He's horribly out of form and he has been for 18 months."
"You've got to be prepared to lose him."@kanecornes remains strong in the belief that Carlton must not overpay Patrick Cripps, and the skipper's performance on the weekend has proved his point.#9FootyClassified | Watch @Channel9 pic.twitter.com/6bER9YUZmr
— Footy on Nine (@FootyonNine) May 10, 2021
Essendon legend Matthew Lloyd mapped out how he thinks the Blues should pay their out-of-contract stars.
He declared that Sam Walsh and Harry McKay should be signed to five-year deals worth $750,000 and $800,000 respectively, and Cripps should be offered a four-year deal at $750,000 per season.
“Maybe Cripps has been waiting to see how Carlton will go (before deciding on his future). Maybe they will look at him and say ‘OK where do we need to put our money’,” Lloyd told Footy Classified.
“I know he was on $800,000-plus, but times have changed in terms of COVID and salary cap. I don’t think he would be entitled to that money.
“If he can get it somewhere else good luck to him. But I wouldn‘t paying over that for Patrick Cripps.”
"I don't think he'd be entitled to that money."@matthewlloyd18 has his say where Carlton should spend its money in order to keep its stars, and Patrick Cripps isn't the priority. #9FootyClassified | Watch @channel9 pic.twitter.com/nicy0ItZ37
— Footy on Nine (@FootyonNine) May 10, 2021