The threads on the Samuel negotiation, Rodney restruction, and the Seymour salary revelation got me to thinking in more detail about the Pats salary schedule and the key words to describe it. I think the best words are "replacement value". What is it going to cost the Pats to replace the talent on the field. Pretty simple you say?. I think not. I think there are many factors that probably go into the calculation. Let me try and break down the more obvious ones and others can add their thoughts. 1. The Pats play a rather unique defensive and offensive systems. While most teams commit to a single system like some version the "tampa 2" or some version of the West Coast offense; the Pats are committed more to there specialized techniques (especially on D) and recognition, than any set alignment. And even though the Pats ARE a basic 3-4 team, we should know by now that THEIR 3-4 is radically different the one used by SD, and Pittsburgh. Basically BB has designed a system that allows him the possibility to scheme radically different alignments every week, because within those vastly different scheme the players are using the same techniques week to week, only their alignment and keys are different. Sounds easy but is extremely difficult. It is ANOTHER reason that defense seems to be able to survive DESPITE the many injury hits its taken over the past 4 seasons. It is also another reason why the Pats value certain elements of a player's skills that many other team don't. Which leads us to #2. 2. Versitility - That has become a catch phrase for all Patriots teams during this 6 year run. In order to make #1 work, you need players who can play multiple positions. This is in stark contrast to what other teams do. For example. The Tony Dungy school of thought is polar opposite to BB's. He believes in lining up in the same alignment with the same keys (relatively speaking of course) and even though the defense will KNOW where you are and what to expect, the defense GAINS more than it loses because the players will rarely make mental errors, and their play recognition will improve because they always know where they are supposed to be and are seeing the play develop from the same positon play after play. Same for their offense, Wayne and Harrison ALWAYS line up on the same sides. That HAS to help their execution. Obviously history has shown that, though vastly different, BOTH systems will work under the right circumstances and the right leadership Getting back on point. Because the system requires players who HAVE to learn and play multiple positions a player who might have fewer physical measurables might be more valuable because of his ability to fit into this system, than a player who is a better athlete, but finds it hard to adapt to all the shifting around. A Key example of this I think, is Antrell Hawkins. Here was a journeyman CB, AT BEST, in Cinci no less, who come here and has been more than effective playing both safety spots On the offensive side you see almost all the OLmen being able to play both sides and BOTH G and T. All the WRs generally have to learn to play all three WR positions. (see the side note) TEs have to learn to play the tight, flexed, & spread positions, PLUS learn all the motions used in the Pats running game as virtual pulling Gs. AND don't get me started on special teams. SIDE NOTE: one of my concerns for early this season is the communication and timing of our new WRs. First because of all the reasons we have talked about before, but also because it was reported that in the OTA's Moss and Stallworth were both playing both outside WR positions, plus the slot. I'm not sure that either guy was asked to be that versitile before in the other systems they ran. If I remember correctly in the WC offense the WRs usually line up in the same positions most of the time. Just something to keep an eye on. BOTTOM LINE here is that in the Pats system versitility is paramount to the success of the total team effort, thus it is an important factor in figuring out a players total value to the team in its salary structure. Players like Corey Dillon who only do 1 thing have to do that thing VERY WELL in order to be on this team long term. On the other had a much lesser talent like Patrick Pass lasted 7 seasons BECAUSE he could do a lot of things. 3. Rarity - certain positions are harder to find than other positions. The hardest positon is QB - A "franchise" QB is the hardest to find. With all the so called talent, all the coaching and training, etc; the QB position has evolved over the last 20 years to become perhaps the HARDEST position to excell at in professional sports. If you were hard pressed to rank them, it would be difficult to find 15 QBs who you would rank as a Franchise QB... and that's probably stretching it. So it becomes apparent that in your salary structure, if you have a QB who is truly a "franchise" player, then you pay him accordingly. On the other side, if you are paying a player LIKE a franchise QB and he isn't producing at that level, it can REALLY hurt your team on the field as well as the salary structure.. The other truly rare find is the elite DLman, regardless of what type of defense you play. The good lord has created very few human beings who have the size, speed, strength, and competitive nature who can play the DL at an elite level. When you find one, you pay him at the top level. We happen to have 3 and that will cost us. It will be interesting to see if we can keep all three LT. After that I think CB is the next toughest. I don't think its that tough physically, however finding the guy who has the right mental outlook is very hard. Think about how mentally tough a CB has to be when the average QB in the league is completing 6 of 10 passes. ERGO, it is tough to be a DB when you KNOW that MOST of the time you are going to lose the battle. Lately it seems that the S position has had much more of an impact on the game that just 5 years ago. Watch the effect that guys like Ed Reed, Rodney, and last season, Bob Sanders, have on the game. It makes me start to wonder if finding the elite S is starting to become even more important than finding the elite CB. Look what the Colts accomplished with 2 very pedestrian CBs and a great S Another position that BB seems to value is TE. Clearly a guy who has the sizen and toughness to block NFL DEs and DT, and threaten a deep zone and be able to catch the ball in traffic is a hard nut to find. However I get the feeling that BB is willing to invest a lot of draft picks to fill this hard to find position, but BECAUSE the TE isn't one the field every down these days, he isn't be willing to pay market value (OVERPAY) for a FA TE, hence the departure of Daniel Graham. I know we all crave them, but the reality is that LBs are a dime a dozen to most teams, simple because there are just more of them coming out of college every year. Perhaps a case can be made for the Pats who seem to look for a LB type that is different from a lot teams. Its why the Pats look to proven Vets and low draftees that they hope they can develop over time. However that is more a fuction of the amount of time that it takes to learn the techniques and get comfortable in the system, than it is finding players who have the physical attributes BOTTOM LINE, that is why you might pay a A Thomas big bucks because of his PROVEN, UNIQUE skills, however by and large LBs are in the middle class of the Pats payscale. The best example of that is Rosey Colvin. He was the AThomas of 2003, but his catastophic injury has turned him from a "unique" talent into a very competent solid vet OLB. No one here will be shocked when next year Rosey will be asked to renegotiate that contract down to the middle class level inorder to pay the likes of Warren and Wilfolk. He's been fortunate the the Pats have had enough cap room the last few years that it hasn't been necessary to ask him to take a well deserved pay cut. Even more available are the WRs. There are ALWAYS several proven vets out there EVERY YEAR, plus another 20 guys who will be there in the draft who have great measurables. Just look at what the Pats did this off season. Even BEFORE the Moss trade, they essentially were able to revamp their WR corp, WITHOUT picking a WR in the draft. You pay the best of them market value, BUT NEVER OVERPAY. Over paying their WRs has hurt the Seahawks in a lot of places. SUMMARY - I think the main factor in identifying the way the Pats build their salary structure can be summed up in the phrase "replacement value" Just food for though. I look forward to your additional thoughts, because my offerings were just a starting point.....and there are STILL 3 more weeks before camp opens up.