How much could Patriots really have known about Aaron Hernandez?

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There’s a nagging question still lingering over the Aaron Hernandez murder case as the Patriots distance themselves from their former star tight end:

Just how much was the team supposed to know about, and interfere with, Hernandez’s off-field activities?

They knew he wasn’t exactly a Boy Scout when they drafted Hernandez in the fourth round in 2010, as his affinity for marijuana and association with unsavory people were well-known amongst NFL front offices. Former Colts executive Bill Polian said last week that Hernandez, widely regarded as a first- or second-round talent, wasn’t even on his team’s draft board.

The Patriots then had Hernandez under their employ for three years, and even gave him a contract extension last August that for practical purposes was worth three years and $16 million, fully guaranteed.

Shouldn’t the Patriots have known what Hernandez was up to off the field – or at least know enough not to entrust him with a big contract and a major role on the team?

The answer, as usual, is complicated.

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