After keeping quiet for nine days since Aaron Hernandez was first embroiled in a murder investigation, the Patriots made a bold statement Wednesday morning by releasing the tight end less than two hours after he was arrested by police at his home.
Authorities later charged Hernandez with the murder of 27-year-old Odin Lloyd, but the Patriots didn’t wait for that before deciding to cut ties with their young star.
A source told the Globe that the team had been prepared to cut Hernandez as soon as an arrest was made.
Hernandez’s arrest comes nine days after Lloyd’s body was found in an industrial park about a mile from Hernandez’s home in North Attleborough.
“A young man was murdered last week and we extend our sympathies to the family and friends who mourn his loss,” the Patriots said in a statement. “Words cannot express the disappointment we feel knowing that one of our players was arrested as a result of this investigation.
“We realize that law enforcement investigations into this matter are ongoing. We support their efforts and respect the process. At this time, we believe this transaction is simply the right thing to do.”
In another statement, NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said the league was troubled by Hernandez’s arrest.
“The involvement of an NFL player in a case of this nature is deeply troubling,” he said. “The Patriots have released Aaron Hernandez, who will have his day in court. At the same time, we should not forget the young man who was the victim in this case and take this opportunity to extend our deepest sympathy to Odin Lloyd’s family and friends.”
Hernandez has pocketed approximately $10.15 million from a seven-year, $40 million contract he signed with the Patriots before the 2012 season: $9.25 million in signing bonus money ($6 million up front, and a $3.25 million payment on March 31), $540,000 in base salary from last season, and $400,000 in roster and workout bonuses over the last two offseasons.
He has another $3.25 million signing bonus due March 31, 2014, but it is unclear at this time whether the Patriots will be able to avoid paying it.
It is also unclear whether the Patriots will be able to recoup some or all of the signing bonus money already paid to Hernandez, whether they can avoid paying him $2.5 million in guaranteed base salary due in 2013 and 2014, and whether they can get salary cap relief in the future.
Hernandez will still count $4.073 million against the Patriots’ salary cap in 2013, and could cost as much as $9 million against the cap in 2014.
Though immensely talented, Hernandez fell to the Patriots in the fourth round of the 2010 NFL draft because of character issues he had at the University of Florida. Teams were worried about his several failed drug tests and associations with certain types of people.
But Hernandez, 23, had been a quiet star since entering the NFL, compiling 1,956 receiving yards and 18 touchdowns in three seasons with the Patriots.