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Thoughts on what Aaron Hernandez's arrest could mean for the Patriots

Posted by Erik Frenz  June 27, 2013 07:00 AM

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Photo by Dominic Reuter/REUTERS

The Patriots released Aaron Hernandez less than two hours after he was escorted out of his house in handcuffs with his arms behind his back and under his v-neck white t-shirt in an image that's ingrained in everyone's mind at this point.

I posted my immediate analysis on Bleacher Report, but here are some extra thoughts that others may not be talking about.

  • Hernandez is going to be tough to replace, but the Patriots got by without him for six games in 2012, and went 5-1 in those games. They lost to the Cardinals, when he went down with a high ankle sprain in the first half, and they lost to the Seahawks in his first game back from that injury, where he was clearly not 100 percent (yet somehow managed to make this amazing catch). They were able to put up 2,686 total yards in those games: 288.3 passing yards per game (season average of 291.4), and 159.8 rushing (season average of 136.5).
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  • One big reason Hernandez will be tough to replace is his size and athleticism, so how do the other tight ends on the roster measure up? As mentioned in last week's mailbag, Zach Sudfeld has turned heads at OTAs and minicamps, and has comparable measurables.
  • In recent years, the Patriots have not been quite as bashful about re-signing key players before their contracts run up. Sure, they had classic standoffs with Logan Mankins and Wes Welker, but in re-signing Hernandez, Rob Gronkowski and Jerod Mayo, the Patriots have proven they're willing to go to the bargaining table early for players who are important to the franchise. Mayo has been a shining beacon of what happens when that works to the Patriots advantage, but it's come back to bite them with Hernandez and Gronkowski. It's fair to wonder if this will influence the Patriots future thinking on such matters, but every situation is different, and very few (if any) others are like Hernandez's.
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  • On that note, here's a chart of the big-name upcoming free agents the Patriots will have to re-sign or replace in upcoming years.
  • The Patriots had more rush attempts than any team other than the Seattle Seahawks last season. They also ran more total plays than any team in NFL history besides the 1994 Patriots, and fell short of their mark by just eight plays. They still ran 145 more pass plays than running plays. That being said, the running game was a noticeably bigger part of the offense in 2012 than recent years. They have a young core of backs in Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen and Brandon Bolden, to which they added LeGarrette Blount in a trade with the Buccaneers. With one of the better offensive lines in football, the Patriots have all the resources they need to rely more on the run this year if they need.
  • Here's colleague Ben Volin's story on the salary cap implications of the Patriots cutting Hernandez. To summarize, this is what happens: Hernandez's cap hit increases to $5.092 million in 2013 and $7.5 million in 2014. They already gave him $6 million up front and $3.25 million in 2013 as part of his $12.5 million signing bonus, and they will try to recoup some of that money and to void the rest of his contract including the final installment of $3.25 million due to Hernandez next year. Some seem to think the Patriots will not be able to void out the contract, but the 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement (Article 4, Section 9), which says that a "forfeitable breach" has taken place when a player "is unavailable to the team due to conduct by him that results in his incarceration." There will likely be a lot of debate between the Patriots, the NFL and the NFLPA as to what exactly that means, and what it means for the Patriots ability to recoup some of the money they paid Hernandez and avoid paying him some of the money they owe him.
  • A lot's been made of how the avalanche of changes this offseason will affect Tom Brady -- outside of Rob Gronkowski, Brady threw just 46 of his 401 completed passes in 2012 to receivers currently on the Patriots roster. Two figureheads that are not in focus right now, that should be, are Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels. Specifically, Belichick has engineered this two tight end set for the past three years. They have stockpiled the depth at tight end in that time. Will their past moves pay off in replacing Hernandez? Will they have to change their offense, evolving even further than they had planned? Can McDaniels work up some of the offensive magic that made his services desired in a rare reunion tour in New England? Brady will be under close watch in how he gets on the same page with these new receivers, but Belichick and McDaniels have to get back to the drawing board, and fast, if this offense is to keep moving.

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About the author

Erik Frenz delivers analysis of the biggest news with the Patriots, including insight into the AFC East and New England's biggest rivals from a Patriots perspective. Erik is an interactive writer who engages his audience in his posts’ comments sections and on Twitter. Readers are encouraged to share their thoughts and ask questions. More »


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