The state of play with Sunderland's out-of-contract four explained and how it will impact upcoming transfer business
The pre-season campaign is nearing and Sunderland still face significant uncertainty over four players they would like to make a key part of their squad next season.
Aiden McGeady Charlie Wyke, Luke O'Nien and Denver Hume have all been offered fresh terms to extend their stay on Wearside, and decisions are thought to be nearing as their current deals wind down.
So what's the current state of play, and what impact will those decisions have on Sunderland's recruitment priorities moving forward?
We run you through where the players currently stand at the start of what looks like being a pivotal week.
As The Echo reported last week, there is optimism behind the scenes that an agreement that sees McGeady extend his stay at the club will be reached.
The deal is not yet concluded, but is understood to have moved close over the last week and all parties are eager to get it over the line.
If and when that happens, it will be a major boost to Lee Johnson.
McGeady was the first player he spoke to after taking the Sunderland job and one of his first moves was to promote him from the bench to the starting XI for the game against Wigan Athletic.
The point being that Johnson has put the immensely talented winger at the heart of his plans and was rewarded with a string of assists through the second half of the campaign.
For his part, McGeady is settled both at the club and in the area, and so was willing to compromise with the club who for obvious reasons, could not commit to the terms of his previous deal after a third attempt to win promotion from League One fell short.
McGeady's footballing talent is obvious, but his experience will also be vital.
It's widely known that Sunderland will move to bring the average age of their squad down this summer, and will prioritise players with resale value when it comes to their recruitment.
Maintaining some element of experience elsewhere in the squad is therefore important and McGeady brings that in abundance.
In terms of Sunderland's forward options, a new deal for McGeady would also add significantly more strength in wide areas.
The Black Cats are likely to recruit at least one more player in that position, with Viv Solomon-Otabor one player linked with a move.
But with Jack Diamond set to be given increased gametime next season, Elliot Embleton and Lynden Gooch both capable of playing in a wide role, and Josh Hawkes set for a pre-season chance to impress, McGeady's new deal would mean it is one of the positions where Sunderland would have some depth as the new campaign nears.
Wyke's future is not yet resolved but behind the scenes, the mood has stayed fairly consistent since the end of the campaign.
The feeling then was that with Sunderland failing to win promotion, and Wyke's stock high after a 31-goal campaign, the striker was likely to depart in search of a new opportunity.
Though the Black Cats continued talks in the hopes of persuading the striker that his best option was to remain on Wearside, at this stage an agreement appears unlikely.
Wyke has had Championship interest, while Celtic have also been strongly rumoured to be a potential destination. Ipswich Town, ambitious in their plans under Paul Cook and new American ownership, are also understood to have made a significant play for the 28-year-old's signature.
Where Wyke will play next season remains unclear but the expectation remains that he will seek a new challenge.
Clearly, that would leave Sunderland with significant work to do in replacing a significant proportion of their goals from last season.
They have high hopes for Ross Stewart, who was recruited in January with a view to being a key player this season whether the Black Cats were in League One or the Championship.
Nevertheless, there will be a clear need to recruit at least one further striker should Wyke indeed depart.
Will Grigg is likely to leave, and that would mean Aiden O'Brien is Johnson's only other senior player with regular experience of playing as a centre-forward.
O'Brien, though, has rarely led the line alone either for Sunderland or his previous clubs, and has looked more comfortable in a front two.
22, an academy product and with significant senior experience under his belt, the club are understandably keen to secure Hume to new terms.
He typifies the model for bringing through players and the belief behind the scenes is that there is still a lot more to come from the youngster who has shown on numerous occasions his potential, particularly driving forward from deep.
Sunderland will hope to reach an agreement on a new deal and then the key is keeping the youngster fit for an extended period.
Hume's season ended at Lincoln City with what was understood to be his third hamstring injury of the campaign.
That is likely to be a factor as pre-season begins and either way, the departures of Callum McFadzean and Jake Vokins mean this is an area of the pitch where another player will have to be recruited.
Were Hume to leave, then they would need two (and potentially four full-backs on the whole).
O'Nien's future appears to remain in the balance at this stage, though there is an obvious need for clarity for both parties as a new campaign nears.
Sunderland are keen to retain O'Nien for obvious reasons. He is a versatile, durable player who still has room for improvement and has had long-standing interest from the second tier. That makes him an asset who falls firmly into the philosophy the club's new team are looking to pursue.
The issue for player and club is that unsurprisingly, that second-tier interest has firmed up as the end of his current deal nears.
O'Nien's affection for the club is well known but he also has ambitions or testing himself in the Championship.
The key for him will be deciding where the best place to make that step is, and whether another year in League One could yet prove to be the best option in the long run.
Another factor will be where Sunderland and clubs interested in his signature see his long-term position to be; given the way injuries elsewhere moved him around the pitch last season.
That versatility would leave big gaps in Sunderland's squad if he was to depart.
Right-back and central midfield, his two best positions, are currently the areas of the pitch where the Black Cats look lightest in their current options.