Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

26 Jun 2013

Patriots Release Aaron Hernandez After Police Make Arrest

So there you go, folks. Clearly he did something. The Patriots will take a huge cap hit from the $12.5 million signing bonus they gave Hernandez a year ago, so you could argue that they did the moral thing by cutting him now instead of waiting to see what he would be charged with. Or, you could argue that they did the immoral thing because they are the Patriots and everything they do is evil.

As for the on-field ramifications, huge, of course, but maybe not quite as big as some people believe. Remember, Hernandez only played 10 games last year, and the Patriots' offense was still pretty good in the other six.

I also agree with what Greg Bedard and a lot of other folks are saying on Twitter: "Patriots decision to release Hernandez now means well-connected Patriots security director Mark Briggs thinks this is going to get much worse."

P.S. I just ran some numbers. No, this doesn't mean that the Patriots will once again be the best offense in the league even without Hernandez... obviously, they also lost Wes Welker and Danny Woodhead, and Green Bay has real running backs now. But still, who's the really important player here?

Patriots regular-season offensive DVOA
with Hernandez: 24.0%
without Hernandez: 42.4%

with Gronkowski: 34.7%
without Gronkowski: 22.3%

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 26 Jun 2013

327 comments, Last at 06 Jul 2013, 10:44am by MJK


by Johnny Socko (not verified) :: Fri, 06/28/2013 - 12:10pm

Will, you are making my argument far too simplistic. Of course I'm not willing to institute a blanket policy of letting any famous murderer plead the charge down. That is just silly. I'm just pointing out the inherent risks associated with trying to get a full murder 1 conviction in these cases. A prosecutor needs to weigh the strength of his evidence, while also taking the "celebrity risk factor" into account. Unfortunately, I think just the opposite happens. The prosecutor see's the celebrity case as a huge opportunity to further his political career by spending hours preening in front the television cameras during the trial.

by Will Allen :: Fri, 06/28/2013 - 12:44pm

I guess I don't understand what your 4:34 PM post means. You are rarely going to have a more strong case than this one, it would appear.

by Johnny Socko (not verified) :: Fri, 06/28/2013 - 12:56pm

On the surface, this case appears strong. But its far too early to declare victory. Trials have an ebb and flow, with the prosecution usually looking unbeatable during the arraignment period. My 4:34 pm post was accepting of a "reasonable" guilty plea. I later more clearly defined that as being "at least 30 years in the pokey". Of course, I am basing this on precious little information when compared to what the prosecutor has at his disposal. It clearly takes a weighing of the evidence to make an informed decision. I'm glad you feel so certain Hernandez will be found guilty, but I caution you not to pop the champaign just yet.

by dmstorm22 :: Fri, 06/28/2013 - 1:30pm

The stunning point is the case seems so strong already. It's been barely two weeks since this whole thing started, and the State already has a seemingly good case on Hernandez. From the stuff I've listened to, most law types were stunned at the amount of evidence they presented at the arraignment/bail hearing.

I totally agree that there is a risk at not accepting a plea and pushing forward with Murder One. First of all, this is all working on the assumption that Hernandez would even plead guilty, but if he does, sure it is a tough decision. From what I've heard and read, the case seems pretty tight.

It will be interesting to see how this all plays out.

by Will Allen :: Fri, 06/28/2013 - 1:47pm

I'm not declaring victory. I'm trying to understand why 30 years, for a 23 year old man, who assassinated a witness, is "reasonable". I also believe that one cannot guarantee at least a 30 year sentence with a 2nd degree murder conviction; I think the statute in Massachusetts requires parole eligibility in 15 years.

Look, if the prosecutor doesn't think he can obtain a 1st degree murder conviction, with the mandatory life without parole sentence, then obviously he shouldn't try the case that way. My point, however, is that the required sentence differential between the 1st and 2nd degree murder is such that the prosecutor has little reason to accept a 2nd degree plea, IF the case is strong, and IF the motive appears to be what it is at this point, that Hernandez wanted to silence Lloyd. A possible parole in 15 years (and to me, even 30 years, for a guy who is 23), for a guy who assassinates witnesses, is just untenable, based upon the fears that whomever tries the case will be incompetent, or that one of the police officers will commit perjury, or the jury will be comprised of morons.

by Dean :: Fri, 06/28/2013 - 2:13pm

If you're Aaron Hernandez, why do you plea bargain?

Admittedly, I'm projecting a bit here, but I would think his top priority would be his NFL career. That seems to be his only avenue toward a financially sound future. And it seems to me that no plea bargain is going to end with him ever being released in time to resume his NFL career. So really, he has nothing to lose by going to trial and everything to gain by hoping he can pull an OJ. The risk is high, but so is the reward and that's the only course of action available to him which has even a slight chance of leading to a resurrection of his NFL career.

Feel free to say that his focus should be elsewhere, but I suspect that's where his focus actually is.

by Will Allen :: Fri, 06/28/2013 - 2:48pm

I mostly agree, which is another reason why I think the chance that this mess doesn't go to trial is pretty close to zero. However, I do think there is chance that by the time it is ready to be tried, the evidence will be so overwhelming that the defense will sit down with the client and say (in an effort to put it in terms that client will immediately grasp), "You have the same chance of avoiding a guilty verdict as the Jets have of winning the next Super Bowl", at which point the client might think that getting out of jail in a couple decades sounds pretty good. The same thing that would make that sound pretty good, of course, would make the state pretty unwilling to consider it.

by herewegobrowniesherewego (not verified) :: Thu, 06/27/2013 - 6:47pm

At the same time, you have to be ready for even the non-Marcia Clarks to make very Marcia Clark-like mistakes sometimes.

The DA in Centre County, PA let Jerry Sandusky go without filing charges in 1999 (with MORE admissible evidence than the time we all know about.) He never had a track record of doing that kind of thing.

We still don't understand why he disappeared in 2005.

by Will Allen :: Thu, 06/27/2013 - 6:57pm

I'm not much on conspiracy theories, but when a DA just flat-out vanishes without a trace, I can see how they start.

by Raiderjoe :: Thu, 06/27/2013 - 7:12pm

Joe Pa was a quiet mab.

by herewegobrowniesherewego (not verified) :: Thu, 06/27/2013 - 10:24pm

Only thing is there is no obvious evidence, and not much known possible circumstantial evidence, of a connection between Gricar vanishing and JoePa/Sandusky/etc.

The real kicker is Gricar threw his laptop into the river (after googling how to erase it,) and left his car on the side of the river (with a cigarette in it, even though he didn't smoke.) His brother also drowned himself near Dayton several years before that.

by GrandVezir :: Thu, 06/27/2013 - 4:55pm

The prosecutor also has the discretion to try each murder as a separate crime, giving the state what appears to be three chances to avoid a screwball jury.

by Purds :: Thu, 06/27/2013 - 7:18pm

I live in New England, but I am a Pats hater. Yet, I can't agree with the sports radio talk right now that the Patriots organization will be tarnished by this. Yes, if he's guilty, NE had a murderer on their roster, but they cut him pretty much the second they were sure, and while I'd love to bust BB's oysters on anything, I can't see what NE did wrong. (The radio heads are talking that NE should have known of his criminal activity. I don't buy that an organization should be foolproof in knowing these guys.) So, for the less biased, what is your take? I just don't see how you can blame NE for having this guy on their team, and as soon as they knew, they cut him.

To me, this is a bad guy who acted like he had reformed, and optimistic people bought it.

by nat :: Fri, 06/28/2013 - 10:28am

Waiting for the arrest to release him seems like the right thing to do. Without the arrest you have nothing official to object to, just rumors and leaks of dubious value.

Immediately releasing him upon the arrest was smart, too. The reports from the arraignment later that day already referred to "ex-Patriot Aaron Hernandez" and there was no window for even the most dedicated Patriots hater to post "Patriots decide to keep a murderer on their roster!" nonsense.

The Patriots seem to be willing to give troubled players a chance to shape up. On the whole, that's a good thing. But it does mean that they have to deal with the players that don't. They'll pay through the salary cap, which only makes sense. But to blame them for Hernandez's actions would be idiotic.

by Theo :: Fri, 06/28/2013 - 11:19am

I have nothing for or against the Patriots and I don't see what they did wrong.
It's nearly impossible to know what all of your 50+ players are doing at any given moment or who they hang out with.

by Brendan Scolari :: Fri, 06/28/2013 - 8:50pm

Agreed. I can't see how it would be tarnishing. Teams aren't keeping players under watch, especially in the offseason.

by Mr Shush :: Sat, 06/29/2013 - 4:33am

I don't doubt that the Patriots did indeed act in good faith (they'd never have extended him otherwise); I'm just a little surprised they didn't know more. I mean, I would imagine the level of gang involvement which I have to assume Hernandez had is reasonably visible - enough so that I would have expected it to show up in pre-draft background checks, or at any rate that Urban Meyer would have been aware of it and let Belichick know. And if a team was concerned that a player might be involved with really bad people, I would have expected that team to have its security department really look into that in depth before giving him a huge extension. But it seems like I must be wrong on at least some of those counts - I'd be interested to know which ones.

by Flounder :: Sat, 06/29/2013 - 1:36pm

I have not seen any solid evidence Hernandez had any gang involvement. It seems just as likely to me he is a wanabee gang-banger/sociopath who decided to do something about it and start killing people.

by chemical burn :: Sat, 06/29/2013 - 5:44pm

Sources as reputable as TMZ (which, yeah, whatever that reputation is worth) have been reporting he was a member of a Bristol gang as a teenager and that the murders he's been involved in are connected to it. There's a photo of him throwing gang signs... which, I know, only every single true idiot who ever took a picture of themselves for twitter has done, but still the reports are there. I think it's more likely he has SOME gang involvement than none, just based on how loose of a definition "gang involvement" can have...

by dryheat :: Sun, 06/30/2013 - 12:09am

A BRISTOL gang? Sounds like a bunch of guys named Biff and Chaz sipping Perrier with their cardigans tied around their necks.

by chemical burn :: Sun, 06/30/2013 - 12:47pm

Yeah, that's the weird thing hanging over all this, like "The Pats should have known he was up to no good - he was from the mean streets... of BRISTOL! He hung out with the toughest criminals... in BRISTOL!" Everybody knows that the reach of Bristol gangs stretches nationwide...

by Dean :: Mon, 07/01/2013 - 10:25am

Not Biff and Chaz. Rodney and Pete Gas.

by Chris UK :: Tue, 07/02/2013 - 4:19am

He's Joey Abs?

by Brendan Scolari :: Fri, 06/28/2013 - 8:56pm

Although I see the point behind not publishing non-stats related articles prematurely, I'd like to throw out the idea that these types of articles would be great for the site and us visitors.

Clearly this is a popular discussion, which is great for FO. The page views when compared to the effort it took to post this XP must be especially nice. Speaking for myself, I love the intelligent community that gathers here, and any chance to hear more of their opinions sounds great to me.

by Theo :: Sat, 06/29/2013 - 12:29pm

I'm glad this website targets quality instead of pageviews. I come here because of the quality in the first place.
Note that this particular XP would have been posted regardless since an arrest means Hernandez wasn't going to play this season. The point was that there was no XP when it was still just rumors.

It's a slippery slope when a website aims for pageviews and amount of comments - this website turns into bleacherreport real quick in that way. Quality goes out of the window then in favor of pageviews with all of its retarded cousins.

by Lance :: Sun, 06/30/2013 - 6:39pm

Except that through over 300 comments, it is clear that the quality has been maintained. Virtually all of the discussion has been thoughtful, with people offering perspective based on their legal experience, people talking about the on-the-field ramifications, and then the conversation about the crime itself. This is exactly why I come here and have done so for years and years.

I brought up the page views issue some time ago not as a way to goad FO editorship into posting sleaze ("Top 10 hottest wives of NFL players!"), but to show that this clearly was something that lots of FO readers wanted to talk about-- probably for the same reasons I wanted to come to FO to talk about it: this is the best site on the web for intelligent football (And football-related) discussion. It's impossible to go to some place like ESPN and have that-- not unless you want to slog through 5000 comments all made by kids who have never had a job, don't use punctuation or capitalization, and avoid the whole "you're/your" thing by just typing "ur", and so on.

As I state before, I certainly don't expect every NFL legal run-in to be posted on FO. Around the Hernandez thing was some headline about a just-drafted rookie for the Browns who punched a guy in the head and is or may be charged with attempted murder. That didn't make it to FO because, really, it didn't matter much. Perhaps if the guy were a high-profile top-5 pick, it might have been XP-worthy.

Anyhow, no point in re-hashing too much.