The New England Patriots have some important, possibly franchise-shaping decisions to make over the course of the next 12 months: linebackers Dont'a Hightower and Jamie Collins and defensive end Chandler Jones all enter the final year of their respective rookie deals and the team has to find a way to keep at least two of them long-term.
However, the search for this way, at least together with each player's representatives, has not yet started. According to Jeff Howe, "the Patriots are in a complete holding pattern with their major financial decisions as they forge through the early stages of the offseason". Neither did the team enter extension talks with Hightower, Collins or Jones, nor did it approach any veterans – like Danny Amendola, Marcus Cannon or Sebastian Vollmer – about restructures or pay cuts.
This should not come as a surprise, though. As New England's Director of Player Personnel Nick Caserio pointed out yesterday, the team currently has to focus on two important upcoming sections of the NFL calendar: the draft and free agency, and how they relate to each other. While Caserio and the rest of the Patriots front office work on those right now, they also surely have a plan in mind when and how to approach contract negotiations.
Typically, talks between the team and its players have started to heat up after the draft – it seems as if 2016 will not be any different, especially considering that the Patriots have no overly important players entering free agency and are in good shape from a salary cap perspective. Business as usual, it seems.