The Patriots’ decision to cut tight end Aaron Hernandez makes it extremely difficult, if not impossible, for the team to recover any of the signing bonus paid to Hernandez last year and, in part, earlier this year. Indeed, the Falcons held Mike Vick’s right through his prosecution, incarceration, and beyond in order to recover bonus money.
The Patriots ultimately chose making a strong and clear statement instead of maneuvering to protect their legal rights. But the story isn’t over yet.
Based on everything we’ve heard and been told in the past five hours, we fully expect the Patriots to do whatever they can to try to recover money that has been paid to Hernandez, and to block the flow of any future payments.
The future payments are the key. Under his contract, a copy of which PFT has obtained, Hernandez is due to receive $3.25 million on March 31, 2014, which completes his $12.5 million signing bonus. We currently believe the Patriots will refuse to pay it, forcing Hernandez to take even more hits in the court of public opinion by fighting — possibly from a jail cell — the team’s decision to cut him off.
Separately, Hernandez and the Patriots could be fighting over more than $2.5 million in future guaranteed base salary. As Ian Rapoport of NFL Network has pointed out, and as we’ve confirmed, the Hernandez contract mysteriously omits language that would forfeit the guarantee in the event of a default by Hernandez. In English, this means he’s arguably entitled to the money even if he’s suspended, in jail, or both.
Again, look for the Patriots to not pay the money, and to force Hernandez to fight for it.
If it comes to that, look for the Patriots to apply heavy public pressure to Hernandez and his representatives to “do the right thing” and abandon the effort to get money that Hernandez, as the Pats surely will put it, didn’t earn and doesn’t deserve. Hernandez’s counter should, and likely will, be that he is contractually entitled to the money, and that the Patriots could have done things differently if the goal was to recover money or to block future payments of it.