The Patriots decided they want nothing more to do with tight end Aaron Hernandez.
The next question is whether any of the other 31 NFL franchises will be inclined to take a chance on a player who, if/when his legal entanglements are resolved, could help a team win games.
Because Hernandez has not yet completed four years of service, he’ll be subject to waivers, with teams getting dibs in reverse order of how they finished in 2012.
For 2013, the financial risk is fairly minimal. His salary is $1.323 million.
Of course, claiming Hernandez would mean bringing the NFL’s latest multi-ring circus to town, only weeks before training camp opens. With the NFL quite possibly prepared to suspend Hernandez indefinitely after he is officially charged, adding Hernandez now may not mean actually putting him on the field this year, or ever.
The guaranteed nature of Hernandez’s base salaries for 2013 and 2014 also could deter a team from claiming his contract. That said, acquiring his contract also would give the team standing to attack signing bonus money that the Patriots already have paid. (That’s precisely what the Buccaneers did after trading several years ago for quarterback Jake Plummer, who abruptly retired.)
It would be a surprise if anyone else claims Hernandez. But the various NFL teams are in many respects like snowflakes, and the desire to win games and compete for championships manifests itself in many ways.
All it takes is one team to decide to roll the dice. While that remains unlikely, it’s not impossible. And it would hardly be the strangest development of the past eight days.