Essendon used their biggest chip on Devon Smith when they sent pick No.11 to Greater Western Sydney early on Thursday morning.
Smith was a player in demand who could shift his attention elsewhere to St Kilda, Carlton or Collingwood if the Bombers dithered.
So the Bombers had to put a time limit on the Western Bulldogs accepting their offer of picks 11 and 46 in return for Jake Stringer and pick 24 or they risked losing the 24-year-old Giant.
That limit expired on Thursday morning and Smith became a Bomber.
It was a good strategic move from Essendon that, contrary to initial thinking, put the club in a better position to land its trio of targets.
The Smith trade shifts the pressure to the Bulldogs to revise their recent stance that handing over “The Package” would require a package that included pick No.11.
The club will have to seriously consider taking the Bombers’ second-round picks, 24 and 29, in exchange for Stringer when the parties meet again.
That will be difficult for the Bulldogs to contemplate because of the fear how such a decision would be interpreted.
Not to mention the disappointment many at the club would feel at losing a player of his talent when they know that in the right environment he will get back to his best.
Such emotion is understandable as the club made an astute choice when it punted on him at pick five in the 2012 draft, landing a player that now looks well-suited to the modern game.
But no one beyond those holding the line that Stringer could return to Whitten Oval if a deal doesn’t go through thinks Stringer can, or should, stay at the Bulldogs.
When premiership coach Luke Beveridge publicly spoke so definitively about Stringer’s need to make a fresh start elsewhere that possibility virtually evaporated.
Despite him being contracted, a return to the Bulldogs would put untold pressure on the club as it looks to rebound from its disappointing premiership defence.
It’s also worth remembering the Bombers did not chase Stringer in the same way Melbourne went after Jake Lever.
When the Bulldogs made it clear he should look elsewhere, Stringer went hunting for spots and Essendon became the only club to accept his application so the Bombers are within their rights to want a deal that suits them.
So having fought the good fight to get a return commensurate with Stringer’s undeniable talent the Bulldogs would not lose any admirers if they accepted the next-best offer.
Their chances of getting pick 11 reduced when Smith nominated Essendon and it passed on Thursday.
The Bombers won’t be offering up their future first-round pick either.
It all leads to one conclusion: the only way to make a tough situation worse now would be to string the Stringer stand-off out further.