The New England Patriots' decision to release tight end Aaron Hernandez on Wednesday was a collaborative one involving the franchise's top decision-makers.
It also was a decision made last week, not Wednesday morning, according to a person with knowledge of the Patriots' decision-making. The Patriots knew that if Hernandez was arrested for being involved at some level in a homicide investigation, he was going to be released. There might be financial repercussions, including a large salary-cap hit in 2014.
The collective bargaining agreement outlines situations in which a team can forfeit a player's salary, and they include "conduct by him that includes incarceration." But a few key details might keep that from working in the Patriots' favor and prevent them from being able to recoup the money.
For one, they cut Hernandez before he was booked into jail. That means they released him before he was able to commit a "forfeitable breach" such as not showing up to practice. Also, Hernandez's contract didn't have a "failure to perform" or "failure to practice" clause that is in almost all contracts. What that indicates is his remaining guaranteed base salaries -- totaling $2.5 million over the course of the 2013 and 2014 seasons -- should remain guaranteed.
The team is expected to attempt to recoup some of the money. However, the decision was made that this is "not about the finances," the person said. There are far larger issues than that.
The Patriots also do not have additional knowledge about the case, as has been speculated. Like many, they are awaiting word on what charges might be filed against Hernandez. But given the seriousness of the situation, given what the team and its brand stands for, the Patriots' leaders decided Hernandez no longer should be a member of their football team.