Door now open for Patriots to execute extension with Jamie Collins

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- With the conclusion of the 2015 regular season, an important marker has been reached on the NFL calendar as it relates to players and contracts. Those in the 2013 draft class are now eligible to renegotiate or sign extensions with their teams.

This is significant for the New England Patriots because it now "activates" linebacker Jamie Collins as a possible contract-based priority.

Collins, the team's top pick from 2013 (second round, 52nd overall), is signed through the 2016 season. He is currently scheduled to earn a base salary of $917,865 in 2016, which is a real bargain for the team.

An extension would significantly up the price tag (think Bobby Wagner type money -- four years, $43 million), but would be a win-win because Collins would receive long-term security while the team would retain his rights in his prime years.

Part of the dynamic here is an element of timing to any potential discussions because Collins isn't the only rising Patriots defender whose contract expires after 2016. Defensive end Chandler Jones and linebacker Dont'a Hightower also have pacts that expire, meaning the Patriots have three of their top players coming up at the same time.

The Patriots have had this on the radar for some time, which goes back to remarks that owner Robert Kraft made shortly after the team didn't re-sign cornerback Darrelle Revis last offseason.

"We wanted [Revis] in our system, and we have certain disciplines. We had hoped it worked out. It didn't. We just don't think about short-term decisions. For example, next year we have three very good young defensive players coming up and we have to factor that," Kraft said in March of 2015.

With the Patriots now eligible to negotiate an extension with Collins, it adds another layer to the unique business-based dynamic of having three top defenders with expiring contracts after the 2016 season.