North Queensland playmaker Jake Clifford is on the verge of signing a two-year deal with the Knights that would see him join the club from 2022.
And the door remains ajar for the 22-year-old to link with Newcastle as early as next season if he is released from the final year of his contract by the Cowboys.
The Newcastle Herald understands one of two spots remaining in the Knights top 30 roster for next season will be kept open for Clifford in the event the Cowboys backflip on their decision a fortnight ago to hold him to his contract.
Ironically, it was North Queensland that spiked the Knights initial interest in Clifford when they gave him permission last month to negotiate with rival NRL clubs.
But after indicating at the time he was free to go elsewhere, their stance changed soon after new Cowboys coach Todd Payten was appointed.
In an about-face, Payten met with Clifford a fortnight ago after negotiations between the Cowboys and free agent Benji Marshall broke down to inform him the club now wanted him to stay.
"The whole Jake Clifford scenario wasn't handled well by our club, and I played a small part in that," Payten told the Cairns Post.
"But we've had a sit-down meeting with Jake, his father and his manager last week and he'll be with us this year. And, if things go to plan the way I want them to go, he'll be here for a long time."
At that stage, the Knights were talking about a potential three-year deal, which then became a two-year deal for 2022 and 23.
Newcastle head of recruitment Clint Zammit, who was formally at the Cowboys, has handled the majority of the negotiations, but in a sign of how serious the Knights are in their pursuit of Clifford, CEO Phil Gardner flew up to Cairns early last week to meet with him and his family.
It's understood further negotiations were held over the weekend but neither Zammit or Gardner were prepared to comment when contacted by the Herald ahead of a possible announcement on his future as early as tomorrow.
It remains to be seen if Clifford's pending decision to pledge his future to Newcastle will influence the Cowboys decision on him staying in Townsville next season.
When Kalyn Ponga signed a four-year-deal to join the Knights in 2018, Newcastle were hopeful of snaring him 12 months early. But then-Cowboys coach Paul Green refused to release him from the final year of his contract.
When asked about Clifford a few weeks ago, Knights coach Adam O'Brien admitted his potential signing would be a boost, even after veteran Blake Green committed to the club after being released by the Bulldogs.
"He [Clifford] is someone I think who can definitely help us in that role down the track provided we can get it [a deal] done," O'Brien said.
"People are saying we have got young kids already there but you want people fighting for their positions. You don't want jerseys just handed out when they haven't been earned."