While a portion of trade and free agency deals are often finalised in the dying seconds of the exchange window's deadline day, the wheels can often be in motion before the AFL home and away season is even underway.

Last year's trade window saw 36 players find a new club ahead of the 2023 season, some deals being brokered within hours and others landing after months in the making.

Between contracted players and free agents, AFL clubs and their list managers will often be putting the wheels in motion to scout targets right from their first appearance of the season, or could very well enter the new year with priority signings in mind.

Lion-turned-Magpie Daniel McStay was among the movers at the end of last season, with his switch to Collingwood coming months after his mind was already made up.

"Daniel McStay was a free agent of mine who I got across to Collingwood. But that was all done in July," CSM agent Nick Gieschen revealed to Zero Hanger in the off-season.

"It was still six months in the making, though. There was Brisbane's offer. Then came Collingwood's meeting. It then went back to Brisbane to think about whether to keep him. It eventually got to a stage where Daniel decided, ‘nup, I want to come home'."

With the new season just over a month away, each club is sure to have their list of targets slowly coming together as they plan to scout out-of-contract names across the course of the year.

With this list, we name the one off-contract player your club should be keeping a close eye on in 2023.

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Carlton

Jordon Sweet

The Blues' list team are sure to have their attention placed firmly within their own four walls this year, with emerging tall Tom De Koning their biggest fish off-contract in 2023.

But while Carlton continues their push to have De Koning sign on the dotted line, a portion of their focus will still need to be on who they can bring into the club should the 23-year-old look to move on from Ikon Park.

Much like their pursuit of Lewis Young ahead of Liam Jones' shock departure late into 2021, the Blues can get proactive if they're unsuccessful in retaining De Koning beyond this year.

Wanting to bolster their ruck stops to aid the workload of Marc Pittonet, who has faced extended periods on the sidelines through injury, then the Blues could have Bulldogs ruckman Jordon Sweet in mind.

The 205cm ruckman enters this season off-contract and still placed third in line for ruck duties at Witten Oval, remaining behind Tim English while Rory Lobb has slotted into the pinch-hitting role.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MAY 13: Darcy Cameron of the Magpies and Jordon Sweet of the Bulldogs cduring the round 10 AFL match between the Collingwood Magpies and the Western Bulldogs at Marvel Stadium on May 13, 2022 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Sweet has shown glimpses he can compete at the highest level, averaging over 21 hit-outs and four tackles across his 11 appearances under Luke Beveridge.

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