The AFL has made a major shift in the player trade this year, allowing clubs to officially do “salary dumps” or trade players on large contracts for a minimal draw fee.
Such deals would have previously been blocked by the AFL. The change will allow clubs to more easily remove a player’s contract from their books to ease the pressure on their salary caps.
The AFL is in the process of informing all clubs of the change in policy, which will allow clubs to trade players with large contracts for a minimum draw proceeds as long as the other clubs take over the player’s contract.
Clubs also have the option of doing things like bundling an attractive early draft pick with a high-paying player in exchange for just a low pick as a way of taking the player’s salary off the books.
As one AFL club recruiter put it, there would hardly be an AFL club that wouldn’t pay a portion of a former player’s salary to play at another club.
Collingwood orchestrated the most famous salary dump under existing AFL rules, in the late 2020 fire sale trading period, with senior player Adam Treloar trading to the Western Bulldogs for a relatively inadequate draft pick and Collingwood contributing a portion of his salary, and Jaidyn Stephenson traded to North.
The change will allow clubs with a large amount of salary cap but few draft picks – for example North Melbourne this year – to use their pay cap as a tool to effectively buy a draft pick for themselves. That is, to get a good draft pick you have to take the expensive player.
The AFL would have previously seen this as an unfair trade and blocked it, but now recognize the value for clubs in taking a player’s salary off the books.