It's the slow season, so I've had some extra time to think and engage in "amateur analysis" - always a dangerous thing. And a bunch of stuff has gotten me thinking about the way the Pats approach the draft, roster competition, team-building in general, and contracts. And I'm not sure I can lay all this out clearly, but it seems to come down to a fundamental belief in "uncertainty" as a guiding principle of the NFL. Most of us crave certainty. We want to plug players into slots, lock them up long term, and watch them perform to expectations. But the NFL doesn't work like that very often. Injuries occur. Veterans age and their skills deteriorate, sometimes at an unexpected rate. Some rookies (and new veterans) fail to develop or adjust at the expected rate, while others develop more quickly than expected. It seems to me that the Pats tend to incorporate uncertainty into their business and coaching model more than most teams. Some examples: 1. The Pats believe in diversification. Things don't always work out as expected, so don't throw all your eggs in one basket. Trade back in the draft and acquire more picks. Double up on draft picks at critical positions. Sign multiple free agents at positions of need, and combine signing veterans with drafting rookies. This has multiple benefits: it functions as a portolio diversification strategy to limit risk; it allows players to develop at different rates without putting huge pressure on them to immediately perform, because there are other options; and it generates depth. 2. Don't overspend at the top. The Pats tend to throw less money at "top end" players and get tied up in long term contracts which could strangle the team if those players didn't pan out. Compare this approach with, say, that of the Jets. This is sometimes called being "cheap" by fans and the media, but I think it's more a factor of the team's business model than being frugal. The Adalius Thomas situation in 2009 was a painful reminder of how a long term contract can strangle a team. 3. Invest at the middle/bottom. The Pats are probably more willing to throw money at depth than more teams. Depth compensates to some degree for uncertainty. Logan Mankins is coming off an injury, Brian Waters is 35 and contemplating retirement. So the team re-signs both Dan Connolly and Dan Koppen as well as Robert Gallery, giving them added flexibility. That may be overkill, but Gallery also gives them flexibility at tackle with Matt Light contemplating (at the time) retirement. If Nick McDonald or Ryan Wendell develops enough to make Koppen expendable, then the team could cut him. But it gives them insurance. Similarly with the approach to WR. Half the guys signed may end up getting cut, but it gives the teams options and doesn't lock them in to any one guy having to achieve. The Pats are also willing to tie up a role player long term, since the cost is low and it provides insurance against uncertainty. Ryan Wendell and James Sanders are good examples. But that doesn't guarantee them a roster spot if they are outperformed. 4. Adjust for performance. The Pats believe in competition. Let guys fight it out to earn their spots. Don't hand guys jobs. There are very few exceptions, and even some of the biggest names on the team talk about the constant competition and need to prove themselves. Compare this with a guy like Joe McKnight for the Jets who was drafted with an expectation and then handed a job that he has never proven himself able to perform, resulting in a better player being cut and going to a competitor. 5. Factor for error. The Pats believe that error is a reality of personnel evaluation in the NFL, and in cutting their losses and moving on. The Pats draft/sign rookies and sign veterans in the belief that those moves have a reasonable potential of working out, but they realize that not all moves will work out as expected, and they tend to cut their losses and move on sooner than most teams, without any beating of the breast or gnashing of teeth in frustration. Chris Baker, Darius Butler, Brandon Meriweather, Chad Jackson, Albert Haynesworth ... the list goes on and on of guys that the Pats have let go because they didn't live up to expectations and had underperformed their contracts, or became distractions to the team. Can you imagine that Santonio Holmes would still be on the team if the Jets were run the way the Pats are? 6. Expect the unexpected. The Pats believe that change is a constant in the NFL, and in adjusting. Randy Moss is acquired for a 4th round pick in 2007, gets a $30M 3 year contract in 2008, and is traded for a 3rd round pick in 2010. Leigh Bodden gets signed to a 1 year deal in 2009 and has a great year, gets a 4 year deal and never plays another regular season game for the team, and gets cut a year later. Tull Banta-Cain gets re-signed on a low-budget deal, has 10 sacks, gets a 3 year extension, underperforms, and is cut. Andre Carter gets signed on a low-budget 1 year deal, has 10 sacks, injuries his quadriceps, and may be done for his career. Things are constantly changing, and seldom work out as planned, and the team needs to be able to adjust for that. This is a bit rambling, and again, it's just my thoughts. And it's not absolute. But it seems to me that the Pats tend to operate more according to these kind of "uncertainty principles" than do most teams. Nothing is set in concrete, and the team adjusts more fluidly than most teams do to a changing environment. It allows them to find guys like Rob Ninkovich, and dump guys like Shawn Crable. We (and the media) spend countless hours trying to predict how things will work out and pinning our hopes on guys working out as planned. Things seldom work out as expected. 2012 probably won't be any different. And the Pats will continue to thrive because they adjust to uncertainty better than the rest of the league. Indeed, they seem to incorporate it into their basic philosophy. Thoughts?