The speed with which the New England Patriots released Aaron Hernandez led to speculation that the team had been tipped off that its star tight end was about to be arrested for murder Wednesday morning.
But a highly-placed executive put that notion to rest, according to the Boston Globe. Hernandez was going to be released whether the charge he was facing was obstruction of justice or murder and owner Robert Kraft and Coach Bill Belichick had “no inside knowledge” of what was coming.
“Did it [what Hernandez was charged with] matter to us? No,” the executive, who requested anonymity from the Globe, said. “We were not going to have somebody on the team that’s close to a murder.”
Hernandez was cut 90 minutes after his arrest, with the exact charge publicly revealed at his arraignment that afternoon. The move is one that comes with enormous financial implications, but the Patriots believe that they can avoid paying him because of clause about “conduct detrimental to the best interests of professional football.” From the Globe’s Ben Volin:
The Patriots will carry significant cap charges for Hernandez over the next two years, but NFL Players Association records show — and the source confirmed — that the team has voided all of Hernandez’s remaining guaranteed money, which totals $5.91 million. They will also take a smaller salary cap hit this year — just $2.55 million — but will have a sizable hit in 2014 before Hernandez completely disappears from the books starting in 2015.
Hernandez signed a seven-year, $39.768 million contract with $16 million guaranteed in August 2012, with a $12.5 million signing bonus that for salary cap purposes is prorated over five years. Nearly $24 million of the contract was not guaranteed until Hernandez made the team each season from 2015-18. Hernandez has already collected $10 million.
But the Patriots believe the NFL’s bylaws and collective bargaining agreement have specific language about “conduct detrimental to the best interests of professional football” that works in favor of them voiding all future payments to Hernandez, including an installment of his signing bonus.
“It was guaranteed for skill and injury, but it wasn’t guaranteed for personal conduct that cast the club in a negative light, and that’s why we cut him,” the source said. “We know the CBA. We are well within our rights.”
On Friday afternoon, the Patriots announced another costly move: next weekend, they’ll exchange fans’ Hernandez jerseys for another of comparable value in the Patriots Pro Shop.
Hernandez was charged with the murder of semi-pro football player Odin Lloyd on June 17 and is being held without bail. He entered a plea of not guilty. Two other men also are in custody and prosecutors contend the three were in a car with Lloyd shortly before his death. His body was discovered in an industrial park near Hernandez’s North Attleboro, Mass., home.
Lloyd was buried Saturday and, over the weekend, a former teammate of Hernandez’s came to his defense, but only to a point. “He was a great kid,” Deion Branch said of Hernandez (via Albanyherald.com). “Overall, I hope the best that he isn’t involved with it and I hope he gets his name cleared, but most importantly I send my prayers and condolences out to the Lloyd family. …
“Nobody deserves to walk, whoever the person is that did it. Most of all what we as Americans need to understand is that is somebody’s child that was a victim. That’s somebody’s dad, and my prayers and thoughts go out to his family and hope that they bring whoever did this to their child to justice, regardless of who it is.”