Panthers five-eighth Jamie Soward says runaway Dragon Trent Merrin is the sort of talent that you don't "turn down" and is hopeful the club can secure his ex-teammate's services.
Merrin's management declared last week that the NSW Origin representative was on the move from Wollongong at the conclusion of the upcoming season, and anticipation continues to surround which NRL side he will sign with next.
Penrith are considered front-runners over Cronulla and the Warriors to snare his signature, although Fairfax reported last week that Brisbane had made a last-minute play for the NSW Origin representative.
Soward said he hadn't been in touch with his former Dragons teammate regarding the move, but believed the ball was now in Merrin's court.
"'Mez' is obviously a quality player and it's an important decision in his footy life going forward," Soward told NRL.com on Monday.
"Definitely his skill base is something that you wouldn't turn down. Going forward, it's his decision and whether we get him or not, it's up to him. But he's definitely someone you'd like to have in your squad."
Merrin, 25, returned to Sydney with his Dragons teammates after their hard-fought 18-12 win over Super League side Warrington during the World Club Series played in England last weekend where he made 126 metres and 32 tackles in just 45 minutes.
He played in all three games for the Blues in last year's State of Origin series victory over Queensland, and has played in 10 of the past 12 interstate clashes since making his Origin debut in 2011.
"He's really matured, everyone can see that," said Soward, who played alongside Merrin for four years between 2009 and 2013.
"If you knew Trent behind the scenes, he was a young kid who came on as a fantastic talent, [but] he's really matured and accepted that he can play at that level for long minutes. Any time you get that, and you find that consistency, then you're going to play good footy."
The Panthers have a host of players coming off contract at the end of this season, including first-grade regulars Lewis Brown, Adam Docker, Brent Kite, Jeremy Latimore, Sika Manu, Tyrone Peachey and Nigel Plum.