NRL Rd 23 - Rabbitohs v Panthers
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 18: Taylan May of the Panthers makes a break during the round 23 NRL match between the South Sydney Rabbitohs and the Penrith Panthers at Accor Stadium, on August 18, 2022, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

The Parramatta Eels will head to this year's edition of the November 1 free agency opening window with less questions than most clubs, although, also less answers.

The key answer for the Eels is why 2023 went as badly as it did. Coming off a grand final appearance in 2022, anything less than a top eight finish in 2023 was always going to be a dismal failure for the team in blue and gold, but that's exactly where the season ended up.

That has left Brad Arthur scrambling for answers and likely under plenty of pressure oif another similar campaign is to transpire in 2024.

Ultimately, there isn't many waves he is going to be able to make on the transfer market either. Parramatta already have 21 players locked in for 2025, and not a great deal of wiggle room on the salary cap given the amount of money they have invested into the likes of Clint Gutherson, Dylan Brown, Mitchell Moses, Reagan Campbell-Gillard, Junior Paulo and Ryan Matterson.

But there are some pressing needs they must attend to, mostly in the backline, and more importantly in the way they do their business.

Current squad for 2025
Dylan Brown, Reagan Campbell-Gillard, Bryce Cartwright, Matt Doorey, Haze Dunster, Wiremu Greig, Clint Gutherson, Brendan Hands, Morgan Harper, J'maine Hopgood, Shaun Lane, Joey Lussick, Toni Mataele, Ryan Matterson, Mitchell Moses, Joe Ofahengaue, Junior Paulo, Will Penisini, Sean Russell, Maika Sivo, Kelma Tuilagi

Current best 17 for 2025
1. Clint Gutherson
2. Sean Russell
3. Morgan Harper
4. Will Penisini
5. Maika Sivo
6. Dylan Brown
7. Mitchell Moses
8. Reagan Campbell-Gillard
9. Brendan Hands
10. Junior Paulo
11. Shaun Lane
12. Ryan Matterson
13. J'maine Hopgood
14. Joey Lussick
15. Bryce Cartwright
16. Joe Ofahengaue
17. Wiremu Greig

Players not in 17: Matt Doorey, Haze Dunster, Toni Mataele, Kelma Tuilagi

Players off-contract at end of 2024
Daejarn Asi, Makahesi Makatoa, Jirah Momoisea, Ofahiki Ogden, Ky Rodwell, Bailey Simonsson, Blaize Talagi (player option)

Here are five players available to negotiate on November 1 from outside of the club the Eels could target for 2025 and beyond.

EVERY PLAYER OFF-CONTRACT AT THE END OF 2024

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1. Taylan May

It's fairly clear that the jury is out on Parramatta's centres and wingers. While Maika Sivo and Will Penisini would just about walk into the starting side of any other side in the competition, the other two spots - one centre and one winger - are debatably up for grabs.

No one within Parramatta's squad has put their hand up to cement the spot, although youngsters Haze Dunster and Sean Russell continue on contract into 2025 and will be fighting hard.

Morgan Harper, who has played reasonably enough if he wasn't tasked with tackling Siosifa Talakai during his time at the Sea Eagles, will also be there.

But that still leaves the need for more depth, and frankly, a player who will put pressure on those players to stand up and play at a higher level.

Enter Taylan May.

He is about to return from an ACL injury at the Panthers and will switch into the centres. His hard-running, fast footwork and ability in defence should make the transition a smooth one.

Ultimately, his ability to play at both centre and wing could leave him a pretty handy target for much of the competition, which might bump his price well beyond what Parramatta can afford... but he is one they should be looking at.

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