Hi Souwly, and everyone! :)
I particularly like your first suggestion. It could be really nice if some particular contracts have a limit of time to be completed, either because it could be done by another group of AI-controled mercenaries as you suggested, or just because the contract can’t be completed if you wait too long
(for example : “Someone saw a big white werewolf, which is rare, in a forest close to the city lately. A merchant wants you to bring him back his hide before we loose his track. You have one day to find and kill it, then the contract will be broken.”)
I’ve always loved quests with a limited amount of time to complete, because it adds some tensions. I hope we will see something like this in this game!