The Western Bulldogs have reportedly tabled a three-year contract to former Carlton defender Liam Jones, an offer the retired defender is set to accept.
Jones has gained interest from several sides since the AFL's easing of their vaccine policy in recent weeks, which will now allow players who are unvaccinated to play and train in the competition.
The change has opened the door for a Jones reprieve, with the 31-year-old having looked to remain in shape in his hiatus, having joined QAFL club Palm Beach Currumbin for 2022.
Jones has since left the Queensland club, now setting his sights on a return to the top flight.
Now, according to SEN's Sam Edmund, Jones has been offered a deal that would see him contracted until the end of 2025, a season he would conclude at the age of 34.
“Liam Jones has made his decision,” Edmund said on SEN.
“The 31-year-old defender, who stepped away from Carlton after refusing to adhere to the AFL’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate, has decided where he wants to play next year.
“Liam Jones wants to go back to where it all began at the Western Bulldogs.
“Rival clubs have been informed by the Jones camp – thanks, but no thanks. The rebounding backman wants to head back to the Whitten Oval.
“This hasn’t been confirmed by the Dogs I need to stress, but I’m told this is a three-year deal for Jones that he will accept in his return to the top level.
“He’s 32 come February, Liam Jones, so it’s a pretty big show of faith from the Bulldogs.
“How Liam Jones gets back to the Dogs, who knows. I’m not even sure the Dogs even know at this stage how this would come to pass because it is a test case.
“Jones, we know, retired in November last year in the face of the no jab, no play mandates. Under existing rules, players who retire can’t re-join the competition for 18 months.
“The Dogs and Jones’ management, they’re seeking an exemption here.”
The Suns and Bombers have also been linked to the former Bulldogs and Blues player, two clubs that have shown a desire to add defensive reinforcements.
But the Bulldogs loom as the side most in need of a key backman, with Luke Beveridge stunningly dropping senior tall Alex Keath from his backline calculations for Round 20.
Beveridge has named an inexperienced back third to face a lethal Geelong attack on Saturday night at Kardinia Park, relying on Ryan Gardner, Zaine Cordy and Buku Khamis to do the heavy lifting against the likes of likely All-Australian forwards Jeremy Cameron and Tom Hawkins.
While Keath remains Beveridge's best option in defence, it has been made evident the former Crow has required assistance on the last line, with Jones a fitting option.
The Bulldogs are also believed to be in heavy pursuit of contracted Dockers ruck-forward Rory Lobb, while contracts for next year for Josh Dunkley, Bailey Smith and Rhlyee West are yet to be confirmed by the club.
The situation means Jones is unlikely to break the bank should he venture back to the Kennel, despite being rumoured to be in line to earn $500,000 in his final year at Carlton.
The Blues are expecting the AFL to consider handing them compensation should Jones gain an exemption to join the league before the start of next season, with retired players unable to return for 18 months after deciding to hang up the boots.
A three-year deal would likely force the AFL's hand, and could see the Blues earn a draft selection as early as the third round.