IT is the time of year when supporters of teams from across the land peruse the list of out-of-contract players from Premier League and Championship clubs and see if there are any gems on offer.
Leeds United fans are no different and it is safe to say that the free market offers plenty of tantalising options, but expect competition in several names to be intense.
Agents are getting to work and links are surfacing in a variety of media outlets, some fairly tenuous and others having a bit more credence.
One name confirmed as being on United’s radar is young Motherwell striker Lee Erwin, with representatives of the 21-year-old having spoken to Massimo Cellino last week.
The names of others have surfaced, with one national report linking QPR midfielder Joey Barton with United, with the Scouser to leave Loftus Road this summer.
QPR and fellow relegated top-flight duo Hull City are clearing the decks somewhat as they come to terms with the financial reality of life back in the Championship.
Barton’s fellow thirty-something’s Bobby Zamora and Shaun Wright-Phillips, with two other elder statesmen released by the club, in Richard Dunne and Rio Ferdinand having hung up their boots.
Paul McShane, Liam Rosenior and Yannick Sagbo are among several who are leaving Hull, who want to keep Stephen Quinn and Alex Bruce.
For Leeds, boosting their striking and wing departments look a clear priority and in terms of the former, several names on the list of freed players from the top-flight currently leap out.
One-time England forwards Darren Bent and Carlton Cole are leaving Aston Villa and West Ham respectively.
Derby remain in the box seat to sign Bent, who scored 12 goals in a productive loan spell at the Rams in the second half of the season.
Former Whites loanee Jerome Thomas will leave Crystal Palace this season along with Shola Ameobi, Brede Hangeland, Owen Garvan and Damian Delaney, with Matt Upson, Dean Hammond and Paul Konchesky among those exiting Leicester.
Back to striking options and a sentimental return to United has been mooted for Jermaine Beckford,considering his options after being freed by Bolton Wanderers.
Preston, who he helped take back to the second tier thanks to a memorable hat-trick in the League One play-off final against Swindon Town at Wembley, are desperate to secure the services of Beckford on a full-time basis, but rival interest will be strong. Another name who has been linked to Leeds in the past, released Brighton striker Craig Mackail-Smith, is also seeking pastures new, alongside ex-United frontman Luciano Becchio, who has left Norwich.
The Argentine spent time on loan in the autumn at Rotherham United, but Millers manager Steve Evans has ruled out a fresh move for the marksman, who is reportedly interesting MK Dons.
Cardiff striker Nicky Maynard is another who is looking for a new club, with ex-Rotherham winger Ben Pringle seeking a move elsewhere after rejecting fresh terms.
Pringle was watched by Leeds owner Massimo Cellino last spring.