Essendon has secured the services of Jake Kelly from Adelaide, with the hard-running defender joining the club as an unrestricted free agent.

With the 2021 free agency period officially commencing on Friday morning, the Bombers moved quickly to sign the 26-year-old, who arrives at the NEC Hangar on a three-year deal after eight years and 110 games at the Crows.

A 2014 rookie draft selection, Kelly established a starting role in the senior side in his first season before helping Adelaide to a Grand Final appearance in 2017.


He played 20 games this season to finish seventh in the Crows’ best-and-fairest count, impressing with his endurance, intercept ability and effective ball use.

According to Champion Data, Kelly was involved in more one-on-one defensive contests (65) than any other general defender, losing just 16.9 per cent of them.


Kelly will reunite with senior coach Ben Rutten, with the pair on Adelaide’s playing list in 2014.

Son of Collingwood premiership player Craig and older brother of current Magpie Will, Kelly will return to his hometown of Melbourne in October before joining the Bombers for the start of pre-season in November.

General manager of list and recruiting Adrian Dodoro said the Bombers were delighted to nab Kelly's signature.

“We’re excited to welcome Jake Kelly to the Essendon Football Club,” Dodoro said.

“We know Jake brings important experience and will work really well alongside the likes of Jordan Ridley, Nick Hind, Jayden Laverde, Mason Redman and Dyson Heppell in our new-look backline. He is a seamless fit with his ability to play on dangerous small to medium forwards, so we’re really pleased Jake has chosen to come to Essendon.

“In our discussions with Jake, he is very excited and motivated by the direction the club is headed, and we look forward to seeing what he can contribute to our emerging playing group in years to come.”