The NRL won't register the expected contracts of Aaron Woods and Kieran Foran at the Bulldogs until the club outlines how they plan to get under next year's indicative $9.14 million salary cap.
With Woods and Foran poised to sign lucrative deals to join the Bulldogs in 2018, the NRL is keeping a close eye on the player movement at Belmore given the likelihood they'll have to part ways with several contracted players to accommodate the arrival of the superstar duo.
Those contracts, which are yet to be signed by Woods and Foran, won't be registered by the NRL until the Bulldogs meet with the governing body and provide details of their plans to ensure they are salary cap compliant next year.
It's also understood the NRL will require some indication from the likely departing players that they intend to leave the Bulldogs, not just a verbal commitment from the club.
It comes after NRL salary cap auditor Richard Gardham sent an email to all 16 club chief executives on Thursday highlighting the ramifications for those clubs that don't heed the NRL's advice regarding next year's still unconfirmed salary cap.
"Clubs were provided with the indicative 2018 salary cap value on 30 March. At this time, it is the NRL's expectation that this number is used by clubs for planning their 2018 rosters," the NRL email said.
"Any club that contracts in excess of this number does so with knowledge of the proposed 2018 salary cap as it currently stands and risks contracts not being registered in line with PCR Rule 47.
"Any club which believes it is likely to exceed the 2018 salary cap based on current agreements should notify the salary cap auditor immediately with a plan to ensure the club is salary cap compliant for the 2018 season. Naturally, the NRL will provide support where appropriate."
Of the big name off-contract players at the Bulldogs, it appears a certainty that Michael Lichaa and Will Hopoate won't be at the club next season. However, the in-form Josh Reynolds, who a few weeks ago seemed likely to be on the way out of Belmore, now appears to be part of coach Des Hasler's future plans.
That will likely mean his halves partner, Moses Mbye, will be the big money player shopped around to rival clubs alongside Bulldogs captain James Graham.
Graham is on a heavily back-ended deal for next season worth close to $1 million, and has attracted plenty of interest from Newcastle, who missed out on the services of Cowboys and Australian prop Matt Scott.
Rival clubs are also aware the Bulldogs will be desperate to offload talent to comply with the salary cap and will try and use that as leverage when they negotiate how much each club will fork out for players.
"The offer presented to the RLPA provides for $9.14m in salary cap and allowances for the top 30 players in each club [plus six development list players]," Gardham said in his email. "On a like-for-like basis this is almost 20 per cent more than the equivalent 2017 figure."
The story Why the Bulldogs may not have Foran and Woods just yet first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.