Essendon are set to be a key figure in this year's player movement space, with the Victorian powerhouse home to two of 2023's seven restricted free agents and likely looking toward external assets to strengthen their path back toward premiership contention.

Under new coach Brad Scott the Bombers have been one of the most impressive sides across the opening seven rounds of the season, currently placed in the top half of the ladder and one win from second spot.

Star midfielder Darcy Parish has been one of the Bombers' standouts across the opening third of the home and away season, with the 25-year-old striking career-best figures in a contract year.

But Essendon's clearance king isn't alone in having a decision to make on his future in 2023, with fan favourite Mason Redman and young midfielder Ben Hobbs atop the pile of players needing new deals for 2024 at Bomberland.

Redman joins Parish in falling under the restricted free agent band, with the pair now serving in their eighth campaigns for Essendon after coming through the 2015 National Draft.

Having been taken fifth overall as part of a double draft coup among the top six picks, Parish's potential was high from the outset, while Redman's rise to stardom was a slower burn before a breakout 2021 season that has since been followed by an exceptional run of form in Essendon's rearguard.

While he may not earn the plaudits that come with being a first-string midfielder, Redman's worth to Brad Scott and the Bombers looks to exceed that of Parish. The balance of attack and hard-hitting defence from half-back is what has seen Redman not only ascend to a top four best and fairest finish last year, but separate himself from the rest of Essendon's back third.

While there's no mistaking Parish's ball-winning acumen and control through midfield, the club's midfield ensemble is already brimming with talent either at the peak of their powers or working their way toward the summit.

Darcy Parish during the AFL match between Essendon and Adelaide, Round 4, 2022 (Photo by Cameron Grimes / Zero Digital Media

The aforementioned Hobbs falls into the latter class, still tied to his draft contract and with 19 career games to his name following Sunday's loss to Geelong. The young onballer is part of a burgeoning midfield pack that looks prepared to fill a void in the centre of the ground the second one opens.

Half-forward threat Archie Perkins, the club's diamond in the rough recruit Nic Martin, ex-Giant Jye Caldwell and 2022 top five pick Elijah Tsatas also join Hobbs in presenting as top line midfielders in Essendon's future, while father-son selection Alwyn Davey is sure to stake his claim for midfield action further down the track.

With triple best and fairest Zach Merrett, senior ball-winner Dylan Shiel and new Bomber Will Setterfield already holding down the fort alongside Parish, it's proven Essendon isn't short on midfield assets.

But while their engine is finely tuned, it's both ends of Brad Scott's red and black automobile that may need some new additions and attention.

The club's defensive structure is sound when fit and firing, with the partnership of Brandon Zerk-Thatcher and Jayden Laverde allowing versatile backman Jordan Ridley greater freedom in defence over the past 12 months. However, their immediate depth options are lacking, with former top 10 pick Zach Reid still needing time to recover from a long injury battle before proving himself in the top flight.

At the other end of the field, the absence of Peter Wright has been felt to start this year, with Sam Weideman needing to carry the workload as Harrison Jones battles both injury and form.

A household figure to not only partner Wright as a tall forward target but compete for the spearhead role looms as an area the Bombers may look toward in the off-season, given their settled midfield group and viable defensive assets.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 04: Jordan Ridley of the Bombers kicks the ball under pressure from Peter Wright of the Bombers during an Essendon Bombers AFL training session at The Hangar on August 04, 2022 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

So would parting ways with Parish lead to a shift that would allow Essendon to enter the trade and free agency space with stronger draft capital and trade arsenal?

Potentially on the end of rival bids nearing $800,000 a season given Parish's form and midfield pedigree, a lucrative deal to pry the Winchelsea native away from Tullamarine would not only open Essendon's already-competitive midfield further, but hand add another top draft selection to their 2023 first-round pick in the form of compensation.

Then loaded with a trio of first rounds for the next two years, Essendon can again get aggressive through the trade space and push themselves to the front of the queue at the key-position market.

This year's off-contract talent includes free agent pairing Ben McKay and Harrison Himmelberg, however a trade deal needs to be struck with either the Kangaroos or Giants if the Bombers plan to attain their own free agency compensation.

Carlton's Tom De Koning firms as another tall target for the Bombers to consider, with Essendon potentially seeing the Blues' young ruck-forward as a fitting replacement for Andrew Phillips and extending their impressive ruck tandem tactics through partnering Sam Draper.

Hoping to build on their youthful stocks, young Port Adelaide forward Mitch Georgiades is another off-contract talent yet to confirm his future beyond 2023, with the Western Australian said to be of interest to clubs from both his home state and Victoria.

ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 26: Mitch Georgiades of the Power peppers to kick during the 2022 AFL Round 15 match between the Port Adelaide Power and the Gold Coast Suns at the Adelaide Oval on June 26, 2022 in Adelaide, Australia. (Photo by James Elsby/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

An ACL injury in the SANFL has sidelined the 21-year-old for the remainder of the season, with Essendon running a risk of moving for the young attacker given the setback and his form prior to the injury.

But much like De Koning, any interested suitor will be paying on potential, with Georgiades having shown more than enough signs across the 2021 and 2022 seasons - booting 55 goals across those two campaigns.

A similar level of risk at half the price may be North Melbourne's Charlie Comben, who himself is facing a long period of time out of action on top of an injury-plagued past few seasons.

Sydney duo Joel Amartey and Hayden McLean are also among the key-position talent unsigned for next season, with the duo both seen likely to attract interest from Victorian clubs hoping to lure the forward pair back home.

The pool of talent for Essendon to ponder is far and wide and the club could secure a greater spending allowance should they be open to parting with Parish. The move would not only give Adrian Dodoro great power at the trade table, but strengthen their own offers to the likes of Redman and Hobbs, who should be seen as preferential contract options given their value and potential respectively.

Redman is anticipated to be of some level of interest to South Australian clubs eyeing the former Glenelg Tiger, with the Crows a suitable landing spot for the hard-nosed defender. But should Essendon have Redman as their top retention priority ahead of Parish, then the Bombers could manage to prevent a fellow top eight hopeful in Adelaide from landing one of this year's big fish.

There's certainly an outcome where Essendon can manage to retain all three of Parish, Redman and Hobbs while seeking star talent from elsewhere, but the club should look to the open market only after the addition of Redman, and not necessarily that of Parish.