The attorney for the mother of Aaron Hernandez murder victim Odin Lloyd said Friday that they want the New England Patriots — Hernandez’s former NFL team —  to pay some of the damages they are seeking in a wrongful-death lawsuit that first was filed against Hernandez in 2013, when Lloyd was gunned down at a Massachusetts industrial park.

It’s important to note that the Patriots were not named in the lawsuit. Nevertheless, Sheff said he was issuing a “friendly challenge” to the team.

“We want to provide the Patriots with an opportunity to become something more, not just champions of football, to become champions of justice,” attorney Douglas Sheff, who is representing Ursula Ward, told the New York Daily News.

Hernandez was found guilty of Lloyd’s murder in 2015. On Wednesday, he was found dead in his cell at a Massachusetts prison, where he was serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole. His death, ruled a suicide by a state medical examiner, opened up a number of legal issues:

— Because Hernandez died before the final appeal of his murder conviction was heard, his family could petition the court to declare the verdict vacated because of an obscure legal principle that Massachusetts courts follow. In essence, the principle states that because Hernandez had not yet exhausted all of his legal challenges when he died, it’s as if he never had been charged and the trial never happened. In the eyes of the Massachusetts legal system, he would be an innocent man.

— However, Sports Illustrated legal expert Michael McCann says such a principle would not automatically end any civil lawsuits filed against him by the family members of his victims or alleged victims.

“Normally those lawsuits continue, with Hernandez’s estate replacing him as the defendant,” McCann writes, though he does note that the attorneys for Lloyd’s family could face a greater challenge winning any civil suit if the guilty verdict in his criminal trial is thrown out.

Sheff said a judge already has found Hernandez liable for Lloyd’s death and that the civil trial is now in the damages stage.

— But how much in damages can Lloyd’s family collect? Hernandez’s legal bills were thought to be large considering the Lloyd trial and the separate murder trial that ended last week with a not-guilty verdict, and he hadn’t collected an NFL paycheck since 2014. Plus, there’s this: Just because Hernandez is likely to be considered not guilty in the eyes of the law doesn’t mean the Patriots must now pay his estate the $5.91 million in guaranteed salary they withheld when they cut him at the time of his arrest.

The Boston Globe’s Ben Volin explains it better than I can:

NFL Players Association records show that the Patriots and Hernandez settled a grievance that Hernandez filed in 2014. The settlement gave the Patriots a salary cap credit of $1.184 million, indicating a Patriots win. Additionally, according to Joel Corry — an attorney, salary cap expert, and former NFL agent — grievance settlements almost always tie up all loose ends.
“Typically when there’s a settlement, there’s some sort of catchall language: ‘This will resolve all claims known or which could be known in the future,’ ” Corry said. “I haven’t seen too many settlements which don’t have some type of form of that kind of language.”

There are other contractual reasons, as well, but the point stands: The only money Hernandez’s family likely will see is what he was scheduled to get from his NFL pension, and that’s most likely why Lloyd’s family is reaching out to the Patriots, who were not named in the wrongful-death suit.

“I can’t speak to what the Patriots will do,” Sheff said. “We issued them a friendly challenge. It sure would be nice if they took us up on our invitation.”

As noted in the bullet points above, the Patriots are under no obligation to do so. Nevertheless, Sheff said the $6 million he and Lloyd’s mother are requesting from them would be “of little consequence to the team” and would be of “tremendous assistance” to Lloyd’s family.

“That would be the right thing to do,” he said.