Carlton better to lose Gibbs

Bryce Gibbs is quite entitled to run his ruler over Carlton's offer and drafting strategy before deciding whether to stay. But what's good enough for the Gibbs is good enough for the gander. Carlton also should be in no hurry to secure Gibbs, certainly not on a monstrous contract.

Gibbs is already paid at the upper level of his worth. We believe he will receive something around $550,000 this year. If that kind of coin, give or take some pocket change, isn't enough, Carlton should let him exercise his free agent rights and walk. His performances don't warrant a contract starting with six, much less an exorbitant seven.

Overpaying players - by means foul or fair - is part of Carlton's DNA. Once, when salary caps either weren't invented or properly policed, this was a method that delivered premierships.  But teams of today - Sydney included - cannot afford to pay for a bottle of Grange and get Pinot performance. The Blues have to consider their list priorities and strategy and where Gibbs fits. It's not a simple question of ''do we keep him or not'': it's what you have to pay, and what the club gains if he goes.

The Hawks didn't even contemplate matching the absurd Sydney offer for Lance Franklin. They made the obvious calculation that keeping ''Buddy'' contracted for nine years would be far worse than losing him. The same logic applies to Gibbs, who is no Buddy and won't be offered a Buddy deal, but still has a value in the marketplace that Carlton should not exceed.

On Thursday night, Gibbs was completely smothered by Richmond cub Brandon Ellis, who booted two important, if slightly fluky, goals in the first half. Gibbs was removed from the midfield and spent much of the evening watching the play - including Carlton's comeback - unfold across half-back. He was poor.

Mick Malthouse acknowledged Gibbs ''didn't have his greatest day'' against the Tigers but, true to the coach's motivational methods, he predicted Gibbs would rebound. ''I know the character of the kid and he will be a very good player for us next week.''

Well, he would want to respond to that performance - which wasn't redeemed by Gibbs' incredible dribbled goal from the hotdog stand in the last quarter. When a player places his contract talks on hold, and reportedly wants to review the club's position/plans, he invites the same scrutiny of his value. Carlton can ask: ''What are your plans, Bryce? What do plan on giving us in return for the money you want?''

That Gibbs didn't produce - particularly when Chris Judd, Andrew Carrazzo and Matthew Kreuzer were absent - was one of the reasons Richmond averted a complete replica of its capitulation in that stirring elimination final last year, surely one of the finest of Gibbs' 157 games for the Blues. On that bright afternoon, Gibbs was second only to Judd among the catalysts for the comeback; most encouragingly, he did his major damage from the midfield, where he had a whopping 12 clearances - four of them in the pivotal third quarter.

Watching that final, one wondered if we were seeing Gibbs suddenly elevate his game to the level expected of a highly skilled No. 1 draft pick. Malthouse had chosen to deploy him in the midfield, in effect challenging him to make the leap from good to exceptional player. And in the course of 2013, Gibbs did improve - averaging 9.3 contested balls and leading the club for forward entries.

But, after 150 games, the gains made by a player will be incremental, not exponential. Gibbs is a senior player and, despite his finals heroics, he's more or less found his level - as a seven out of 10 footballer, and a valuable, but not indispensable player.

Gibbs' contractual positioning is part of an apparent trend for free agents, who say they want to review their club's ''direction'' - and even recruiting plans - before putting pen to paper.

James Frawley's camp have made similar noises about assessing where the Demons are headed and, after seven coaches in eight seasons, you can't really blame him for pausing before signing, or considering leaving.

Adelaide's Patrick Dangerfield is the most recent player to put the onus on the club to prove its worth. To some clubs, this newly empowered free agent player, who reviews the club like a stockbroker, is getting ahead of himself.

But players also need a line when they don't want to sign, for whatever reason. Dangerfield, for instance, might be considering a move home to Victoria, but doesn't want to be that frank about his plans. Ditto for Frawley if he's interested in leaving Melbourne.

Gibbs has bought a house near Visy Park, which may or may not be a sign that he really wants to stick with Stephen ''Sticks'' Kernahan - his father Ross' old teammate from Glenelg. Adelaide has always been seen as the main prospective suitor for Ross Gibbs' son, in part because the Crows were upset that the father-son rule didn't allow them to recruit Bryce. It's possible that the Crows would be willing to pay a premium - as they have with Eddie Betts. And we should not discount the possibility that other clubs, including Victorian ones, will have a crack if he remains unsigned.

Regardless of rival offers, the Blues cannot afford to buckle, just as Richmond couldn't accede to the demands of Dustin Martin (or his management). Gibbs would deliver a first-round pick in a strong draft. On present form, this would deliver Carlton two picks inside the top 10. This would give it the hand and flexibility it needs to repair the many potholes in the playing list. For example, the Blues could offer both picks for one of Jonathon Patton and/or Tom Boyd from the Giants.

Kernahan recently opined that the Blues were ''in the best position to keep him. We've got a bit of work to do with him but we're confident we'll keep him.''

Don't just plan to keep Gibbs, Sticks. Plan to keep him if he performs.

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