Patriots could get future cap credit in wake of Aaron Hernandez incident

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The NFL salary cap system forgives, but it does not forget.

Even after cutting Aaron Hernandez, the fact that he signed a relatively large contract extension less than a year ago means that Patriots will be facing salary cap repercussions for years to come.

Since he was cut after June 1st, only the guaranteed money he was due this year, $2.5 million, will count against the salary cap; the entire remaining guaranteed $7.5 million signing bonus comes into play against the cap next year.

Since I don’t have Hernandez’s contract with the Patriots in front of me, I can’t tell you how much the Patriots will be on the hook for beyond next year. But Brian McIntyre from expressed his belief on KJR radio station in Seattle that the Patriots will seek future salary cap relief from the NFL as a result of Hernandez’s arrest and subsequent termination from the team.

“What they’ll probably do is take that $7.5 million hit next year, but, in the future, and this could be two, three, four years down the line, [what they could do] is try to gain some cap credits.”

The NFL has actually done this before when Michael Vick was arrested on dog fighting charges and was therefore unable to play for the Atlanta Falcons while in the midst of playing out a 10 year, $130 million contract. The NFL gave the Falcons a $3 million cap credit in April of 2012 after Vick declared bankruptcy and was unable to pay back the remainder of the signing bonus.
Now, I would argue that the Patriots should accept responsibility for the risk that they took in drafting and signing Aaron Hernandez. Sure, there was no way that they could have foreseen that he would be a(n alleged) murderer. However, his checkered past should have made the Patriots realize that the likelihood of him becoming involved with any sort of off-the-field trouble and being forced to miss games as a result was significantly greater than the average player. And signing Hernandez to a massive extension even though guys like respected veteran and core offensive lineman Matt Light had questions about Hernandez’s character even then is a move that should be under heavier scrutiny, and to me that is where the Patriots made their mistake.
Still, the Aaron Hernandez situation is an extreme one, and a nightmare for all parties involved. And if the NFL decides that giving out cap credit to the Patriots will help resolve the situation at least a little bit, then so be it.