Aaron Hernandez’s Release Could Cost Patriots $12 Million in Salary Cap Space Over Next Two Seasons

Aaron HernandezAaron Hernandez‘s release will cost the Patriots both on the field and off.

The Patriots released the Pro Bowl tight end Wednesday soon after North Attleboro police arrested him in connection with the murder of Odin Lloyd.

The Patriots offense has lost one of its most versatile and dangerous weapons, but the team will also be hit hard in the checkbook.

The Patriots gave Hernandez a five-year contract extension worth $40 million, which included $16 million in guarantees, just last offseason. The new deal still holds some guaranteed money to be spread out over the next two seasons, meaning the Patriots may be paying for Hernandez even when he’s not on the roster.

Hernandez got a $12.5 million signing bonus with his contract last offseason that was spread out on the salary cap over the first five seasons ($2.5 million per season). The Patriots originally carried cap charges of $4.013 million in 2013 and $4.137 million in 2014 for the tight end, according to Spotrac.com. Now, it looks like the Patriots will spread out the remaining $10 million of his signing bonus over the next two seasons instead, increasing their cap hits substantially in 2013 and 2014.

The Patriots will carry cap charges of $5.092 million (up a little more than $1 million) in ’13 and about $7.5 million (up almost $3.5 million) in ’14, according to EPSN’s Adam Schefter. So, they will be charged upwards of $12 million on the salary cap for Hernandez over the next two seasons.

There is still a chance that the Patriots will go after Hernandez’s signing bonus in an attempt to recoup at least some of the $12.5 million, but they will have an upward battle ahead of them.

The Atlanta Falcons were able to recoup $20 million of Michael Vick‘s $37 million signing bonus after he pleaded guilty to federal charges in 2007.

The NFL addresses the issue in the league’s constitution: “Whenever the commissioner [Roger Goodell], after notice and hearing, decides that an owner, shareholder, partner or holder of an interest in a member club, or any player, coach, officer, director or employee thereof, or an officer, employee or official of the league has either violated the constitution and bylaws of the league or has been or is guilty of conduct detrimental to the welfare of the league or professional football, then the commissioner shall have complete authority to: Cancel any contract or agreement of such person with the league or with any member thereof.”

The Patriots can, and likely will, appeal the league about receiving some salary cap relief. They will also likely seek an arbitrator to decide whether they can reclaim some of Hernandez’s signing bonus.

Have a question for Luke Hughes? Send it to him via Twitter at @LukeFHughes or send it here.

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