New England Patriots team officials were shocked when Aaron Hernandez was charged with murder and not obstruction of justice, but franchise brass already had decided to release him no matter what the charges were, according to a high-ranking team executive who requested anonymity in a Boston Globe report.
The executive told the Globe on Friday that owner Robert Kraft and head coach Bill Belichick “had no inside knowledge” of the murder charges, but added: “Did it matter to us? No. We were not going to have somebody on the team that’s close to a murder.”
Ninety minutes after Hernandez was arrested Wednesday morning, the Patriots cut him. At that time, the charges had not been made public, and many speculated that the Patriots quickly released Hernandez because they knew the charges would be more heinous than obstruction of justice. It appears that wasn’t the case.
NFL Players Association records show that the Patriots have voided all of Hernandez’s remaining guaranteed money, which is $5.91 million. The hits on the Patriots salary cap will start at $2.55 million in 2013, then escalate until Hernandez’s five-year contract leaves the books in 2015.
Hernandez signed a five-year, $39.768 million extension in August 2012, with $16 million guaranteed. It included a $12.5 million signing bonus, prorated over five years. Hernandez has already collected roughly $10 million.
The Patriots believe an umbrella clause that allows a team to suspend a contract for “conduct detrimental to the best interests of professional football” will keep Hernandez from collecting any more money from the team.
“(The contract) 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 executive told the Globe. “We know the CBA. We are well within our rights.”
Inquiries to the players union by USA TODAY Sports about whether it intends to fight for Hernandez’s money have not been returned.
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