Aaron Hernandez released from Patriots – Who’s Left for Brady to throw to?

aaron-hernandez-patriots

EDIT: At the time of our original article, no official charges were filed against Hernandez. Now he’s been charged with murder.

The New England Patriots released Aaron Hernandez after the tight end was arrested this morning in connection with a murder case. The body of semi-professional football player Odin Lloyd was found near Hernandez’s home nine days ago.

Once the death was ruled a homicide, the investigation led police to Hernandez’s North Attleborough, MA.¬†home. Lloyd’s family says he was with Hernandez the night that he died. After questioning the former University of Florida standout, police found that his house had been scrubbed down and security equipment was broken.

At this point, it’s unclear why Hernandez was arrested since no formal charges were filed. All that’s known is he’s no longer a member of the Patriots and could be in major trouble. The Patriots released the following statement after letting the 23-year-old go:

A young man was murdered last week and we extend our sympathies to the family and friends who mourn his loss. Words cannot express the disappointment we feel knowing that one of our players was arrested as a result of this investigation. We realize that law enforcement investigations into this matter are ongoing. We support their efforts and respect the process. At this time, we believe this transaction is simply the right thing to do.

rob-gronkowski-patriotsIn light of this tragedy, New England now has to worry about whom Tom Brady is going to throw the ball to. Last year, the Patriots opened with two outstanding tight ends in Rob Gronkowski and Hernandez. Seeing as how Gronkowski probably won’t be ready for Week 1 after undergoing back surgery, Hernandez was expected to be a huge part of the offense.

However, those plans are out the window and the Patriots will be looking for other players to step up. Obviously Danny Amendola is going to be a big target since New England signed him to a 5-year, $31 million deal this past offseason. The thinking is that Amendola can help replace Wes Welker’s 118 catches from the slot last season. He had a nice 2012 campaign after catching 63 passes for 666 yards and 3 touchdowns. However, there are major injury concerns with Amendola since he’s played just 12 games in the past two seasons.

Former Minnesota Vikings wideout Michael Jenkins has looked good in OTA’s. The 10-year veteran caught a modest 40 passes for 449 yards and two touchdowns last year, but could be in line for a much bigger season if he starts in the Patriots high-powered offense.

danny-amendolaJulian Edelman may have a larger role too after being resigned in the offseason. He only caught 21 balls for 235 yards and three TD’s in 2012, but was really coming on strong before getting injured. Second round draft pick Aaron Dobson is one more guy to watch. The Marshall product recorded a 4.37 forty-yard dash, which at 6’3″ is quite impressive. But he’ll have to be a little more consistent than what he showed in OTA’s to get quality playing time.

As for the currently vacated tight end position, Jake Ballard and rookie Zach Sudfeld should get plenty of chances until Gronk is healthy. Sudfeld, who stands 6’7″ and weighs 255 pounds, had an excellent senior year at Nevada (45 catches, 598 yards, 8 touchdowns). But like many other Patriots receiving options, he has injury issues. As for Ballard, he spent most of 2012 on the PUP list, but had a strong 2011 campaign after catching 38 passes for 604 yards and four touchdowns.

Most of the receiving options for Brady look pretty solid, although they come with question marks. Of course we know that somebody is going to catch the ball for New England and Brady should have another strong year. Last season saw him throw for 4,827 yards, 34 TD’s and just 8 INT’s. However, New England lost to the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship – a defeat that Brady will no doubt be hoping to avenge.

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