Tigers livewire Brandon Ellis has put talks of a contract extension on hold as the 25-year-old will look to explore free agency options at season’s end.
Essendon, Carlton and North Melbourne have all expressed interest, with several clubs outside of Melbourne also keeping tabs on Ellis’ situation.
Ellis is understood to be holding talks with his management next month to discuss his options for the 2020 season, with the Tigers aware of Ellis’ decision to potentially pursue an exit from Punt road.
Ellis’ name falls into Carlton’s hunt for a ready-made onballer as the club looks to add experience to a youthful list, while both the Kangaroos and Bombers look to acquire midfield depth.
Carlton and North Melbourne will both begin talks with upcoming free agents like Ellis with no permanent senior coach listed for the 2020 season, causing difficult discussions with potential recruits.
The premiership Tiger signed a two-year deal with the club in 2017, making him one of Richmond’s highest earners this season as a restricted free agent.
Richmond has successfully signed on 11 premiership players beyond this year, including Dustin Martin, Nick Vlaustin, Dylan Grimes and Kane Lambert, whilst adding Tom Lynch in last year’s off-season, meaning Ellis may have to take a substantial pay-cut if he is to sign-on with the Tigers.
Richmond is set to extend the contract of club-favourite Shane Edwards beyond 2020, while they remain in talks to keep upcoming unrestricted free agent key David Astbury at the club.
Dan Butler, Liam Baker, Shai Bolton, Nathan Broad and Kamdyn McIntosh are also out of contract at the end of the season.
After falling out-of-favour with the Tigers last season, Ellis has enjoyed 2019, averaging 22.3 touches a game.
Tigers coach Damian Hardwick admitted last month that he had overlooked the positives to Ellis game in recent times.
“He’s had some challenges, there’s no doubt. The great thing about Brandon, the thing I love, is he accepts the areas he’s got to get better at,” Hardwick said.
“But also as a coaching group, I probably didn’t understand and back in his strengths enough. That was on me. To his credit, he’s gone on and is playing some wonderful footy.
“He’s playing his natural game, his ability to run and create, use the ball, mark, has just been really evident for me to see, which is really pleasing.
“It happens from time to time, and at stages I’ve got to get better at catching myself doing it. I know when I’m at my worst, unfortunately, Brandon’s one of those guys, he’s really close to me, that cops it the most.”
Ellis joins Greater Western Sydney’s Stephen Coniglio, Gold Coast’s Sam Day, St Kilda’s Jack Newnes and Adelaide’s Sam Jacobs as this year’s restricted free agents.