Essendon have a problem. In fact they have three problems. Three players' clubs, one pick, maybe two: it's not working. Well, not at the moment it's not. It probably will in the end, it normally does.
It would be easier if Essendon had one player they clearly wanted most out of Stringer, Smith and Saad.
If Jake Stringer was clearly the prime target and the other two lesser targets then the deal would be easier because it's easier to sacrifice another deal as you got the one you wanted. It is not that clear cut for Essendon.
Stringer is probably the player they want most. The Bulldogs are playing tough on a trade but shouldn't be – they have pushed him out and there is not a strong field of competitors trying to pick Stringer up if the Bombers talks fail. Recently the Bombers offered the Bulldogs their pick 11 for Stringer and the Dogs' pick 26. The Dogs said no, at the very least they want 11 straight out. They should have taken the Bombers' offer.
Player managers Paul Connors and Robbie D'Orazio, who are handling Stringer and Jack Watts, are right to be angry about clubs pushing contracted players out the door then insisting they dictate the terms of the deal. Equally clubs are right to be indignant when contracted players treat their contracts so blithely and walk out.
Back to Essendon. Stringer at his best is the best of the three players and so theoretically he is the priority target. But equally if he was playing at his best the Bulldogs would not be parting with him.
Adam Saad is a good, hard-running player and good character and extremely appealing to several other Melbourne clubs whom Saad could equally have chosen to satisfy his need to return home to be close to family.
Dev Smith was wanted by other clubs. Insult him with a weak trade offer and he would as likely decide he is actually happy to go to Carlton, Collingwood or Geelong.
Essendon have proposed trading 11 to Gold Coast for Saad and the Suns' pick 19. Gold Coast won't do that. They argue that although they have pick one they also have no third-round pick and they would be giving up Saad to move just eight spots ahead in the draft with their second pick. They are prepared to look at 11 for Saad and pick 22.
Essendon would then be open to trading pick 22 to the Dogs for Stringer and getting Smith with pick 28 (their original second-round draft pick).
That is problematic. The Dogs are unlikely to agree to 22 for Stringer. They might come at pick 19 at a push, but not 22.
Equally GWS would argue that if the Bombers are prepared to do that deal for Saad they should actually be doing pick 11 to them instead for Smith and pick 23 (just one behind the Gold pick) because Smith is the better player and there is nothing different in the trades.
Essendon could then give the Dogs 23 for Stringer and pick 28 for Saad. That might be enough for Saad – though the Suns probably would disagree – but if 22 would not please the Dogs on Stringer, then 23 won't.
That is why Travis Colyer emerged late on Monday as a possibility to bring in an extra draft pick to make the deal happen. He is a West Australian and fast – two things West Coast like – but the Eagles won't part with a good enough pick to make the deal any easier. So that won't happen.
So then it might come back to this: where is the competitive market? Saad and Smith are sought by other clubs, Stringer is not.
Have the Dogs burned their bridge with Stringer so badly he can't return? They would say no. His manager thinks otherwise.
The Bombers: three players and three problems to solve. But three players they hope will also help solve problems.