BRENDON Goddard must decide whether a three-year contract worth up to $1.95 million is enough to keep him at St Kilda.
Goddard, 27, is off contract and a restricted free agent, and will test out the market when the free-agency window opens in a fortnight.
It is understood he had wanted a four-year deal to remain at the club he joined in 2002, but the Saints maintain three years is their best offer. They have offered a contract worth between $600,000 and $650,000 a season to retain him, which, if incentive clauses are triggered, would result in a pay increase.
It is understood Goddard would have accepted a three-year deal only if the remuneration was higher.
Essendon is circling the two-time All-Australian and appears set to offer a four-year deal and more money than the Saints when free agency opens on October 1.
The Bombers need help through the midfield and rebounding from half-back, a role that would suit Goddard.
He has also been linked to Fremantle through the connection with former Saints coach Ross Lyon.
If a rival club tables an official offer, the Saints have the option of matching it.
The Saints may be open to tinkering with their offer but have made it clear they will not compromise the work they have done this season in easing their salary-cap pressure.
If Goddard was to leave, the Saints almost certainly would receive a first-round compensation pick if they did not secure a player of similar age and worth as a free agent.
Goddard's future was a talking point at Wednesday night's best-and-fairest count, in which he finished fourth behind winner Lenny Hayes, runner-up Leigh Montagna and Sean Dempster. He was also awarded life membership.
While his passion for the Saints was obvious in his acceptance speech, the fact he did not mention next season was noted by the club.
''I just want to thank everyone for their support. It has been 10 years and 205 games,'' Goddard said.
''I am humbled and privileged to play 200 games at such a wonderful club. It has meant a lot to me. It is my life. I love you guys dearly and thank you for your support and your continued support throughout the years.''
St Kilda coach Scott Watters is unsure which way Goddard is leaning.
The Saints have been able to free up space under their salary cap, having been burdened in part in recent years by the bonus clauses several star players had in their contracts.
This situation will improve further next year when more players come off contract, but Watters is already bullish, declaring the Saints will be ''aggressive'' during free agency.
''Twelve months ago, yeah, there was some pressure, as you would expect of a club that had been through a number of grand finals,'' he said.
''It would be incorrect for people to think our position is compromised in any way, shape or form. So we are in a position to be aggressive from a salary cap point of view. And that needs to be on the record. I'd rather people know the truth.''
The Saints are determined to follow the models of Geelong, Collingwood, West Coast and Hawthorn in ensuring the gap between their highest-paid players and their second-tier senior, established talent is not as great as it once was.
■ Liam Pickering has resumed as an AFL player agent after his year-long, non-compete clause with former employer IMG ended last week. Pickering, one of the more prominent managers with the likes of Lance Franklin and Scott Pendlebury on his books, has joined Strategic Management Solutions.