The Patriots released tight end Aaron Hernandez on Wednesday morning, less than two hours after the player was taken into custody by state and local police in connection with the murder of Boston resident Odin Lloyd.
Authorities charged Hernandez with murder, including several llegal firearms charges. But the Patriots decided to cut ties with their young star tight end before those charges were known.
A source told the Globe that the team had been prepared to cut Hernandez as soon as an arrest occurred.
He was ordered held without bail.
In all, Hernandez pleaded not guilty to six charges.
The team released a statement in announcing his release:
“A young man was murdered last week and we extend our sympathies to the family and friends who mourn his loss. 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.”
Hernandez’s arrest comes nine days after the body of 27-year-old Lloyd was found murdered in an industrial park about a mile from Hernandez’s home in North Attleborough.
New England has wasted no time and is clearly doing everything it can to distance itself from Hernandez.
Immensely talented, Hernandez fell to the Patriots in the fourth round of the 2010 NFL Draft because of character issues while at the University of Florida – teams were worried about his several failed drug tests and associations.
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. The tight end will still count $4.073 million against New England's salary cap for 2013.
The Patriots structured Hernandez's 2012 contract extension in such a way that he earned large chunks of money through workout and roster bonuses. A source told the Globe it looked like the team had protected itself financially "in case he was a knucklehead."
Of course there was no way of knowing that this type of trouble -- being tied to a murder investigation -- is what would come to pass.
The NFL released a statement regarding Hernandez's arrest as well:
"The involvement of an NFL player in a case of this nature is deeply troubling. 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 already pocketed approximately $10.15 million from a seven-year, $40 million contract he signed 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 payment due on March 31, 2014, but it is unclear at this time whether the Patriots will be able to avoid paying it.
It is also unclear as of now whether the Patriots will be able to recoup some or all of the signing bonus money already paid to Hernandez, whether it can avoid paying him $2.5 million in guaranteed base salary due in 2013 and 2014 and if they can get salary cap relief in the future.
In addition to the $4.073 million against the salary cap in 2013, Hernandez could cost as much as $9 million against the cap in 2014.