Four AFL clubs have been identified as having the most salary cap space.
Speaking on Fox Sports' AFL Tonight, Tom Morris said the industry believes Essendon, Hawthorn, Adelaide and North Melbourne to be the leagues most "cashed up" clubs.
All four clubs are currently undergoing rebuilds which has lead to some wiggle room in their respective salary caps.
The spare cash will allow these clubs to be more aggressive with their list management and could help them make a big splash in the trade period.
Essendon's top priority will be to re-sign gun midfielder Zach Merrett.
Merrett's impressive form so far in 2021 has many rival clubs circling the restricted free agent, but Essendon would be hoping its strong start to the season would help grow Merrett's confidence in their future.
"There’s a quiet confidence at the Bombers that they’ll be able to re-sign Merrett, maybe even before the end of the season," Morris said.
"But that’ll cost them at least $850,000 to $900,000 a year; he’s a future captain, so it does makes sense to pay for him if he does want to stay.”
Essendon will also be keen to re-sign Jake Stringer, who is currently playing out the final year of his contract. Despite a string of recent injuries, Stringer has proved himself an important player in their line up and Essendon will want to make sure the 27-year-old stays at the club.
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In the trade period, Essendon could look to attract a tall forward to replace an ageing Cale Hooker. Sam Weideman has struggled to break into Melbourne's side this year and could offer a trade target for the Bombers.
Hawthorn are sure to prioritise bringing in some high-end draft picks after a decade of leaning on the trade period.
Hawthorn currently sits 17th on the ladder, which has raised questions about the quality of young talent on their list.
"Hawthorn is weighing up how to boost their draft hand... I think they’re going to try and trade one or two men out," Morris said.
“Now who do they trade out is a really interesting question. Tom Mitchell would be a really tough call, he’s contracted until the end of 2023, he’s a Brownlow medallist, but do they try and trade a midfielder out and get something else in? He’s still got currency.
“Or Jack Gunston, who’s their reigning best-and-fairest, clearly still has value, but other clubs went for him last year, particularly Collingwood - they were really keen on him."
Hawthorn's need for draft picks may force some tough decisions, with names like James Sicily also being floated as potential trade currency.
Adelaide have shown vast improvements over their last dozen games and can look to start drawing young talent back home to South Australia.
“The go-home factor with the Crows is big, they’re going be chasing mainly South Australian talent for the foreseeable future, and the two at the top of that list are (Jack) Lukosius and (Izak) Rankine from the Gold Coast Suns,” Morris said.
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“Both contracted until the end of next year, the Suns will absolutely say that those players aren’t going anywhere. But that doesn’t mean the Crows won’t throw big money at them and try to lure them home, if not this year certainly next year when they’re out of contract.”
Adelaide have also reportedly shown interest in Sydney defender Jordan Dawson, another South Australia whose skill and disposal would strengthen the Crows backline.
Adelaide will also look to attract goal-kickers to the club, needing to assist Taylor Walker who has played a lone hand up forward for them this year.
Jack Gunston (Hawthorn) or Alex Sexton (Gold Coast) could offer immediate relief in front of goal whilst their youngsters develop.
North Melbourne will be desperate to bring in some high-end talent to give their rebuild some hope.
Seemingly destined for the first pick in this year's draft, the Roos will need to provide further relief to a struggling young list.
“North Melbourne need to sell the right vision. Do they have a dip at Jack Billings? Whose best mate is Luke McDonald, who just signed a five-year deal,” Morris said.
“Billings is a restricted free agent at St Kilda - that could be a good fit if Billings does decide to move on, and North Melbourne are keen.
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“He’s clearly still a valuable player but he’s never finished in the top three of a best-and-fairest. So watch that space with Billings and North Melbourne over the next few months.”
The Roos aren't foreign to throwing money around either, offering multi-million dollar contracts to both Dustin Martin and Josh Kelly in the past few years.
Another potential target for North Melbourne would be to go after Western Bulldogs forward Mitch Wallis. Despite leading the Dogs goalkicking in 2020, Wallis has struggled to hold this spot this season, and a leadership position in North Melbourne's best 22 could be enough to tempt him.
Why on earth would Adelaide ever give a two-faced liar like Gunston the time of day?
The manner he left Adelaide (to go to Hawthorn) would make a compulsory argument – this guy is a no-go zone, he simply cannot be trusted……
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