Cronulla Sharks eye Benji Marshall as replacement for Shaun Johnson

Cronulla looms as the most likely destination for Benji Marshall should the veteran playmaker opt to postpone retirement.

The player market is finally heating up as teams prepare to return to pre-season, even though the NRL has yet to land on a salary-cap figure for next year.

A raft of signings are likely to be confirmed in coming days, including Parramatta’s purchase of Bryce Cartwright.

However, there are other trades being worked on in the background which could have significant implications for next season.

Marshall is perhaps the highest-profile player yet to find a home for 2021 after the Tigers opted not to renew his contract. The former Golden Boot recipient knocked back an approach from the Cowboys, but is still hopeful of picking up a club.

His best chance of doing so appears to be Cronulla. The Shire outfit is expecting to be without Shaun Johnson for the opening two months of the season after the Kiwis half ruptured his Achilles tendon in the penultimate match of the regular season.

Matt Moylan, who the Sharks have unsuccessfully attempted to move on from the final year of his deal, is one of the contenders to fill the void alongside Connor Tracey and Braydon Trindall. The latter is poised to be re-signed after making his debut this year.

However, Marshall could provide much-needed experience to John Morris, who is fighting for his own future at the club. Marshall, who has a good relationship with Cronulla football manager Darren Mooney from their time at the Tigers, is weighing up whether to play on or retire.

The Tigers have completed a contract with Roberts for next season after he was granted a release from South Sydney for personal reasons. The Sydney Morning Herald revealed last week that Tigers officials were in negotiations with the former NSW centre after obtaining pictures of a secret meeting at a Concord cafe.

After speaking with Roberts, club powerbrokers were convinced the 2015 Dally M centre of the year still has quality football ahead of him.

There was interest from several other clubs in the 27-year-old, but Tigers coach Michael Maguire is now tasked with getting the best out of one of the fastest players in the competition.

Maguire was keen to add more speed to his back line after missing out on the signature of Josh Addo-Carr, who will remain in Melbourne after the premiers opted not to release him before his contract expired. The Tigers remain in the hunt for his signature from 2022.

It may not be the club’s only addition to their back line. Panthers fullback Dane Laurie is close to agreeing to terms on a two-year deal from 2022, although the Tigers remain hopeful Penrith may grant him an immediate release. If that occurs, he will be in the mix to wear the No.1 jersey as soon as next year.