The Patriots released Aaron Hernandez after he was charged with murder, but under the terms of the NFL's collective bargaining agreement, they may still be obligated to pay him all or part of his outstanding $3.332 million signing bonus.
Fox Sports's Mike Garafolo, citing a source, reports that the NFLPA is soon expected to file a grievance on Hernandez's behalf because the Patriots did not pay him the $82,000 workout bonus he was due on Aug. 1. Hernandez, who signed a contract extension last summer, had earned that bonus by participating in the team's offseason workouts last spring, before he was charged with the murder of Odin Lloyd.
Bonuses are the only portion of NFL contracts that must be paid even if a player is released; to reduce their cap hit, teams typically spread out the payments on them over several seasons. Hernandez's extension included a total bonus of $12.5 million, with the final installment to be paid next year. The CBA does allow teams to try to recoup prorated portions of those bonuses if a player is incarcerated. Which means that had the Patriots kept Hernandez on the roster, they could have attempted to get back some of the money they still owe him. But by ridding themselves of him, they may have forfeited their right to reclaim any future signing-bonus obligations.
The Patriots had to know this, of course. Their options were to keep an accused murderer on the roster while seeking to revoke his bonuses, or to cut ties knowing those bonuses would have to get paid. They chose the latter, which was obviously the better option from a PR standpoint. Now they want the advantages that might have resulted from choosing the former, too.
Garafolo says the situation will likely be decided by an arbitrator, a process that is expected to begin soon. That final installment of Hernandez's bonus, due in March, calls for him to receive $3.25 million.
Photo: Associated Press