So what did the Patriots know about Aaron Hernandez when making him a fourth-round pick in 2010? According to former Patriots employee Floyd Reese, plenty.
Reese, who began hosting a radio show this week in Nashville, said during an interview of Greg Bedard of TheMMQB.com that the Patriots were aware that Hernandez had issues at the University of Florida.
“When he was at Florida, he had some issues there too, there were some things that went on,” Reese said, via Bedard. “We all knew about it. It was just from our standpoint, we were getting a first-round talent in the fourth round under a contract that was going to keep him in line or it wasn’t going to cost us a penny. The real downside for us was the fourth-round pick.”
And that’s why teams will continue to take chances on talented players with red flags. At a certain point in the draft, it’s worth the risk to roll the dice on a player who may end up being a steal. The downside, as Reese said, is the squandering of the lower-round pick.
That’s why the only way to truly deter teams from taking chances on players whose talent outweighs the risk of the low-round pick used to acquire him is to strip other (and higher) draft picks from teams who take that chance and have it blow up on them.
Unfortunately for the Patriots, Hernandez did nothing in his early years with the team (that they knew about) that caused them to be concerned.
“We knew he had some issues prior,” Reese said. “[Former Florida coach] Urban Meyer and Bill [Belichick] were very, very close, and I think Urban convinced Bill that, you know, that these things weren’t going to be an issue. When we structured his first contract, his rookie contract, we probably had 75 percent of the money in the contract set up so that he would only make it if he stayed out of trouble, didn’t miss meetings, was always there doing the right thing. And for the period of the original contract, he lived up to every bit of it. So it turned out well. Of course, after that, after he signed [a $40 million contract extension], things kind of went awry.”
Things actually went awry before the contract was signed; Hernandez pulled the trigger multiple times in Boston, killing two men in the process, before he used that same hand to sign his long-term deal. The Patriots obviously didn’t know that things had taken such a negative turn.
As Tom Curran of CSN New England said on Wednesday’s PFT Live, maybe the Patriots should have known that something wasn’t right with Hernandez, generally. Given that they already were on notice regarding potential issues at Florida when drafting him, team security should have been paying closer attention to Hernandez’s lifestyle, his whereabouts, and his overall conduct.