Aaron Hernandez‘s release will cost the Patriots both on the field and off.
The Patriots decided to release the Pro Bowl tight end on Wednesday soon after North Attleboro police arrested him in connection with the murder investigation of Odin Lloyd. The move deprives the Patriots’ offense of one of their most versatile and dangerous weapons, but it will also hit them hard in the check book.
The Patriots gave Hernandez a five-year contract extension worth $40 million, which included $16 million in guarantees, just last offseason. The new deal still holds some guaranteed money to be spread out over the next two seasons, meaning the Patriots may be paying for Hernandez even while he’s not on the roster.
Hernandez got a $12.5 million signing bonus with his contract last offseason, which was spread out on the salary cap over the first three seasons. The Patriots will carry cap charges of $4.013 million in 2013 and $4.137 million in 2014, according to Spotrac.com. So, the Patriots will be charged upwards of $8 million on the salary cap for Hernandez over the next two seasons.
There is still the chance that the Patriots will go after Hernandez’s signing bonus in an attempt to recoup at least some of the $12.5 million paid to him last offseason. So, there is at least a chance at salary cap relief.
The Atlanta Falcons were able to recoup $20 million of Michael Vick‘s $37 million signing bonus after he plead guilty to federal charges in 2007. So, the Patriots do have precedent in the situation.
The NFL addresses the issue in the league’s constitution.
“Whenever the Commissioner, after notice and hearing, decides that an owner, shareholder, partner or holder of an interest in a member club, or any player, coach, officer, director, or employee thereof, or an officer, employee or official of the League has either violated the Constitution and Bylaws of the League or has been or is guilty of conduct detrimental to the welfare of the League or professional football, then the Commissioner shall have complete authority to:
“Cancel any contract or agreement of such person with the League or with any member thereof;”
The Patriots can, and likely will, appeal the league about receiving some salary cap relief. They will also likely seek an arbitrator to decide whether they can reclaim some of Hernandez’s signing bonus.
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