The Patriots released tight end Aaron Hernandez Wednesday for his alleged role in the shooting death of Odin Lloyd. The move came roughly 10 months after the team gave Hernandez a five-year, $40 million contract extension that included $16 million in guarantees. Now the team has voided the remaining guaranteed money, according to the Boston Globe's Ben Volin, who also reports that neither owner Robert Kraft nor coach Bill Belichick had any inside knowledge that Hernandez would be charged with murder.
"Did it matter to us? No," a high-ranking source with the team told Volin. "We were not going to have somebody on the team that's close to a murder."
Hernandez has already collected $10 million, but the Patriots believe NFL bylaws and the collective bargaining agreement have language pertaining to "conduct detrimental to the best interests of professional football" that could favor the organization's attempt at voiding all future payments to Hernandez, including his remaining 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.”
Volin writes that Herandez was due $2.46 million in guaranteed base salary in 2013-14, $200,000 in roster and workout bonuses this year, and a $3.25 million payment next March 31 to complete his signing bonus. That money was fully guaranteed for skill, injury, and cap purposes.
ProFootballTalk.com's Mike Florio writes: "As to the $2.5 million in guaranteed base salaries, there will be no fight from Hernandez or the NFLPA. Multiple sources on both sides of the issue have told PFT that salary guaranteed for injury, skill, and salary cap can be voided if a player is cut for conduct unbecoming to the team."
But, Florio adds: Hernandez's camp "will argue strenuously that the Patriots have no right to withhold the $3.25 million in deferred signing bonus money" because that money has already been earned.
Squabbling over a contract that is now meaningless may seem like the least of Hernandez's worries, but he has been charged with first-degree murder. Mounting a vigorous legal defense won't be cheap.
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