Essendon's allotment of top-up players is quickly being filled, but it appears unlikely to feature a second player to have previously missed games for a drug ban.
While former Fremantle tagger Ryan Crowley was signed by the Bombers earlier in the week, it is understood ex-St Kilda small forward Ahmed Saad has not been approached by Essendon list manager Adrian Dodoro or his recruiting team.
The Dons are allowed to sign up to 10 replacements, a concession granted after 12 current Essendon players were among the 34 men last week suspended by the Court of Arbitration for Sport for the 2016 season. CAS reached a level of comfortable satisfaction that they had been injected with the banned substance thymosin beta-4 as part of the club's 2012 supplements regime.
At least four of the spots have now been filled, with delisted Richmond defender Matt Dea, 2013 Hawthorn premiership player Jonathan Simpkin and former Geelong champion James Kelly joining Crowley in being secured by the Bombers.
Saad, 26, had signed with VFL club Coburg after being let go by the Saints at the end of the 2015 season, and had declared his interest in joining the Bombers as one of the replacements.
In order to be eligible as a locum, a player must have been on an AFL list in the past two years, or be on Essendon's VFL list.
While several players on the Bombers' reserves list have been mooted as potential replacements, it is believed former Brisbane Lions midfielder James Polkinghorne is the only one who has been training with the club's AFL contingent.
Others to have been floated as potential top-ups include cut Adelaide midfielder Brodie Martin, dual Geelong premiership player Mathew Stokes, and former ruckman Mark Jamar - who recently joined the Bombers as a part-time ruck coach. The acquisition of Jamar would help Essendon deal with a shortage of talls, although an other option being considered is former Western Bulldogs big man Ayce Cordy.
Complicating the situation though is the fact that Cordy has been signed by VFL club Williamstown, who had also recruited Dea. The rules laid out by the AFL mean that Essendon can only recruit one player from any club other than the VFL Dons. However, the AFL can grant approval for a player to be picked from outside these parameters.
Ex-West Coast forward Ashton Hams has also been looked at by the Bombers, but is considered unlikely to be reunited with his former coach John Worsfold.
Meanwhile, Essendon invited parents of the 34 banned players to a meeting on Thursday at which club chief executive Xavier Campbell was due to speak. AFL Players Association chief Paul Marsh also attended the session, which was aimed at seeking to address concerns of the parents.