Collingwood chief executive Mark Anderson has conceded salary cap pressure was a key factor in the club's decision to get rid of four players during the AFL trade period.
Adam Treloar, Jaidyn Stephenson, Tom Phillips and Atu Bosenavulagi were all offloaded to rival clubs last week, with the Magpies receiving well under market value in return.
The trade dealings, as well as the club's perceived poor treatment of fan-favourites Treloar and Stephenson in particular, has sparked a fierce reaction from disgruntled supporters since the trade period ended on Thursday.
Collingwood list manager Ned Guy last week claimed the club's salary cap squeeze was a "beat-up", however, Anderson on Sunday admitted it had limited the Magpies' ability to chase free agents.
In a letter to members, the Pies' chief executive said "salary cap pressure was certainly a key part of the decision" to move on the four players.
"To be blunt, we found ourselves in a bind," Anderson wrote.
"We were without realistic access to the free agency market with our salary cap being at its limit.
"We have had quality players expressing interest in coming to our club, interest we could not realistically pursue due to our cap limitations.
"This could not continue and so some tough and, frankly, painful decisions had to be made."
Anderson acknowledged Collingwood's approach to the trade period had not been well explained and had caused "angst" amongst supporters.
He promised the club will communicate with supporters and will take direct feedback at its annual members' forum, with this year's event to be held after next month's national draft.
Collingwood have two first-round picks in the draft (14 and 16) and an eye on next year's free agency talent pool.
Anderson backed the football department's list regeneration plan.
"Because of the talent at the top end of this year's draft, this is one our recruiting team want to be in," he wrote in the letter to members.
"Further, with the salary cap relief created, we can aggressively attack the free agency market from next year on if we so wish."
The Collingwood members' forum will be held either in person at the Holden Centre or online, in line with COVID-19 restrictions.
Australian Associated Press