The New England Patriots have secretly surrounded quarterback Tom Brady with the fourth most expensive group of receivers in the whole league. Who would have thought?
I started this research because the Broncos have offered receiver Demaryius Thomas a contract worth the second most of any wide receiver in the league (Thomas has rejected the offer because he wants more than the Lions' Calvin Johnson). The Broncos would be foolish to give Thomas that offer, because the law of the Shiny Hood Ornament is real and locking up that much cap space could have a detrimental impact on the rest of the roster.
The Dallas Cowboys would be unwise to offer Dez Bryant a Calvin Johnson-level contract, too. It turns out that the notion of collusion between Dallas and Denver stems from a conversion between Bryant and the Cowboys COO Stephen Jones, son of Jerry Jones, where Jones said that Broncos GM John Elway agreed that Calvin Johnson-level contracts were way too expensive.
Regardless, I wanted to point out that teams that invest so heavily in a receiver will ultimately regret it, and I wanted to point out that the Patriots invest in other positions, because they're just so much smarter than the other teams.
But it turns out, the Patriots have the 4th most cap space in 2015 locked up in their tight ends and wide receivers, and they're behind just the Lions, with Johnson's megacontract, the Broncos, with Thomas' franchise tag contract, and Washington, with the dual-megacontracts of Pierre Garcon and Desean Jackson. New England is a nose ahead of the Cowboys, with Bryant's franchise tag contract and tight end Jason Witten's contract.
Per the Rule of 51 (essentially counting salaries for the most expensive players during the offseason), the Patriots have $27.2 million in cap space, or 19.0%, in receivers Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Brandon LaFell, Matthew Slater, Aaron Dobson, and Brandon Gibson, and in tight ends Rob Gronkowski, Scott Chandler, and Michael Hoomanawanui.
But why is this okay? Why does the concept of the Shiny Hood Ornament not apply? It's because the Patriots haven't splurged on a player and they're allocated their resources across a handful of top players.
The Lions have an astonishing 14.2% of their cap in Calvin Johnson, with an additional 3.7% in receiver Golden Tate and 2.6% in tight end Brandon Pettigrew.
The Broncos have 8.5% of their cap in Thomas and another 3.9% in Emmanuel Sanders. No other player reaches 2.0% in cap allocation.
Washington has 6.6% of their cap in Garcon and 6.3% in Jackson, and an additional 2.6% in receiver Andre Roberts.
The Cowboys have 8.5% in Bryant and 5.7% in Witten. No other player reaches 2.0% in cap allocation.
The Patriots have four players with 2.0% or more of cap space: Rob Gronkowski (6.0%), Julian Edelman (3.2%), Brandon LaFell (2.4%), and Danny Amendola (2.2%).
By diversifying their receiver portfolio, the Patriots are able to balance talent with cost, and compensate for any sort of injury that might occur.
This, of course, is the Bill Belichick style of team building and management. He sets his ceilings for players and their contract values, and he doesn't go beyond them. He understands that deviating from the system in place is the first step towards its collapse.
The Patriots are fielding Edelman, LaFell, and Amendola for less cap space than the Broncos or Cowboys have allocated for Thomas and Bryant. That is why the law of the Shiny Hood Ornament doesn't apply. Belichick has surrounded Brady with the fourth most expensive group of weapons in the entire league, and he's done it by building quality depth across the roster.