Penrith are believed to be heavily considering an offer for off-contract Storm and Queensland prop Christian Welch, with the Panthers hoping they can pick up the Origin star at a cheaper price with his current knee injury.
The 25-year-old sustained a ruptured ACL this month and has been ruled out for the remainder of the season, and with the Panthers on the hunt for Welch, they may be able to successfully low-ball for the prop.
Welch was on the verge of an agreement with Paramatta, with a $500,000-a-year contract on the table before Welch's injury, according to The Daily Telegraph.
He had reportedly met with Eels coach Brad Arthur and had visited the club's training facilities.
Paramatta has since retracted their interest, but may follow the Panthers' suit with a reduced offer, while Canterbury's early-season interest seems to have faded.
Welch is believed to be keen to stay in Melbourne next season, as he has the option in his favour, but knows his club are unable to offer any guaranteed contracts beyond next season.
A deal between the Panthers and Welch will heavily rely on thew future of Reagan Campbell-Gillard, with the Penrith prop rumoured to be involved in a mid-season move to Paramatta.
The Panthers hope their leading prop remains in Penrith and if a deal falls through between Campbell-Gillard and the Eels, then a move for Welch will be off.
It is understood that Welch was hoping for a $600,000-a-year contract with Melbourne, but may be happy to slide to $500,000 to get a deal done.
The Storm has a restricted amount of salary space following big-money deals for Dale Finucane, Jesse Bromwich and Nelson Asofa-Solomona.
Welch has flourished in 2019, making his Origin debut in game three and boasted averages of 104m and 14.6 carries a game prior to his injury.