Hernandez's double murder trial set for 2015

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Hernandez's double murder trial set for 2015

BOSTON -- A judge on Tuesday scheduled a tentative May trial date for former New England Patriots player Aaron Hernandez in the 2012 drive-by shootings of two men, and his lawyers asked a judge to issue a gag order because of intense media coverage of the murder case.

Hernandez has pleaded not guilty to killing Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado after a random nightclub encounter in Boston.

During a hearing in Suffolk Superior Court, Hernandez's lawyers asked Judge Jeffrey Locke to issue a gag order prohibiting anyone involved in the case from commenting outside court.

Attorney James Sultan said the defense is concerned that Hernandez can't get a fair trial because of extensive media coverage of his indictment in the double slayings and another murder case against Hernandez in the 2013 death of semi-professional football player Odin Lloyd. Lloyd's body was found in an industrial park near Hernandez's North Attleborough home.

"I think it's incumbent upon all of us ... to do whatever we can to safeguard Mr. Hernandez's constitutional right to a fair trial and a jury that has not been poisoned by unfairly prejudicial pretrial publicity," Sultan said. He argued that a judge in Bristol County, where Hernandez is charged with killing Lloyd, issued a gag order in that case.

Prosecutors opposed the request. Assistant District Attorney Patrick Haggan called a gag order "unreasonable" and "unwarranted," and said it not the usual practice in Suffolk County.

Haggan said Hernandez's lawyers were suggesting that "because of his celebrity and his public figure status that Mr. Hernandez should not be held to the rules of this court."

Haggan said prosecutors involved in the Hernandez case had not made any improper statements outside court. Sultan disagreed, saying District Attorney Dan Conley had "held a press conference" after the indictments against Hernandez were issued and again after he was arraigned.

The judge took the request under advisement and did not indicate when he would rule.

Family members and friends of the two men filled the front two rows of the courtroom. Several relatives wept as Hernandez was brought into the room. Two women left the courtroom as Hernandez talked and laughed with one of his lawyers just before the hearing began.

Locke made it clear that the May 28 trial date is only tentative. He acknowledged that the date could change because Hernandez's trial in Lloyd's killing is scheduled for October.

Hernandez's lawyers told the judge they don't plan to file any motions in the 2012 double slaying case until after the trial in the Lloyd case is over.

But Locke warned them, "Don't consider this case suspended until October."

Hernandez is due back in court on Aug. 14.

Eagles Stay or Go Part 3: Trey Burton to Vinny Curry

Eagles Stay or Go Part 3: Trey Burton to Vinny Curry

In the third of our 12-part offseason series examining the future of the Eagles, Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro give their opinions on who will be and who won't be on the roster in 2017. We go alphabetically — Part 3 is Burton to Curry.

Trey Burton
Restricted free agent

Roob: Burton caught 14 passes the first nine games of the year and 23 the last six games of the year. One of the few Eagles who actually showed significant improvement as the year went on. He did drop a few too many passes, which is surprising for the usually sure-handed tight end. But overall Burton continued to progress and show signs that he can be a very good receiver in this offense. Burton isn’t a Zach Ertz, but there’s no reason he and Ertz can’t be a pretty potent 1-2 tight end punch. Burton will catch 50 passes next year and continue to improve as a blocker. A nice player who can do a lot of different things. 

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: Burton had a career-high 37 catches in 2016 after having just three in his first three seasons. The Eagles would love to have Burton back next season, but they might not be able to afford it. They really have two options. One would be to use the lowest tender, which would allow teams to negotiate with him and sign him without compensation; that price would be about $1.8 million. Or they could place a second-round tender on him, which means any team that signs him would have to give the Eagles a second-round pick; that price would be around $2.75 million next season. If the Eagles place the original round (lowest) tender on him, which I see happening, other teams might be interested. The Eagles would then have the ability to match an offer, but how much money are they going to put into the tight end position? 

Verdict: GOES

Nolan Carroll
Unrestricted free agent

Roob: Carroll isn’t as bad as Nnamdi Asomugha or Byron Maxwell or Bradley Fletcher or even Leodis McKelvin, but he is yet another in a seemingly endless list of free-agent cornerbacks the Eagles have spent a fortune for that haven’t panned out. Carroll isn’t awful, but let’s be honest. He’s really not much of a playmaker, he gets beat way too often, he’s inconsistent and the Eagles need to get better at corner. Carroll is a free agent, and I don’t see any reason to re-sign him. He had just one interception this year, and 44 NFL cornerbacks had more. He’s just a guy, and the Eagles need more than that. 

Verdict: GOES

Dave: Carroll was brought back on a one-year deal for 2016 after he visited with the Cowboys. The deal wasn’t worth a ton — just over $2 million — so they could go with the same type of deal to bring him back for next season. But do they want to? Carroll didn’t have his best season and even admitted as much. It might be time to part ways and try to upgrade at the position long term. 

Verdict: GOES

Brent Celek
Cap hit: $5M

Roob: Celek isn’t going anywhere. Thanks to that somewhat mystifying three-year contract extension last offseason, he would count $6 million in dead money if the Eagles released him. As opposed to $2 million in salary. So Celek, who is still a capable blocker and catches just about everything he can get to, will be back for an 11th year in an Eagles uniform. I have no problem with Celek staying. He's been a tremendous Eagle on and off the field for a long, long time. It’s just the Eagles have so many weaknesses and then this glut of tight ends, which doesn’t make a lot of sense. But at least they’re deep somewhere. 

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: Yeah, $5 million is a big cap hit for a guy who has pretty much become a blocking tight end. With his new deal, though, the Eagles wouldn’t save money if they cut him. And they probably wouldn’t want to anyway. I’m not really one for keeping a guy just for leadership, but I think the Eagles want Celek to retire as an Eagle. If he can hold on for two more seasons, he’ll do that. 

Verdict: STAYS

Don Cherry

Roob: The former Villanova Wildcat will get a chance to impress during offseason workouts, but his most likely landing spot if he impresses is the practice squad. 

Verdict: GOES

Dave: The Villanova linebacker spent most of the 2016 season on the Eagles’ practice squad, so he’s an unlikely candidate to make the 53-man roster in 2017. Still, he’ll be in training camp and get a chance to prove himself. Maybe he can hang on the practice squad another year. 

Verdict: GOES

Fletcher Cox
Cap hit: $9.4M

Roob: Cox was good this year but not as dominating as last year, and it will be interesting to watch how his career progresses as the huge base salaries start to kick in. Cox has a $9.4 million cap hit this year, $17.9 the following year and as high as $22 million in 2019 before dropping to $20.3 million, $17.2 million and $17.1 million. Needless to say, that is an unprecedented investment. The Eagles aren’t paying him to be good, they’re paying him to be one of the upper-echelon elite defensive players in the NFL, and this year, he just wasn’t on that level. He’s not going anywhere for a long time, but he has to be consistently better than he was this past season for that contract to be worth it. 

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: A tough one here. Just kidding. Cox might have had a down season statistically, finishing with just 6½ sacks, but those stats don’t tell the whole story. Cox is still the most disruptive force on the Eagles’ defense and brings double teams all the time, which in theory should help his teammates. He needs to eventually find ways to beat those double teams and I think he will. 

Verdict: STAYS

Vinny Curry
Cap hit: $9M

Roob: Curry’s another one who’s not going anywhere. You want to cut him after a disappointing 2½-sack season? Get ready for a $15 million dead money hit. That’s not happening. Curry’s five-year, $46.25 million contract looks like a mistake now, but the Eagles can’t get out from under it until 2018 at the earliest. Curry will be here for at least one more year. 

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: Curry got paid last offseason and didn’t have much to show for it in 2016. He signed a five-year extension worth $46.25 million and then went out and played just 43 percent of the Eagles’ defensive snaps and had just 2½ sacks. That’s the same number of sacks Marcus Smith had in 2016. Curry had nine sacks in 2014 and has 10 in the other combined four years of his career. But that contract is just kicking in and he’s not going anywhere. 

Verdict: STAYS

PFF ranks Eagles' front seven as the second best in NFL

PFF ranks Eagles' front seven as the second best in NFL

At times during the 2016 season, the Eagles' defense looked like the best unit in the league. And at other times … it didn't. 

By the end of the season, the Eagles averaged out to be a middle-of-the-road defense. And the way ProFootballFocus ranked it makes sense.

PFF ranked the Eagles' secondary as the absolute worst in the league, but in it's list of front sevens, released on Tuesday, the Eagles came in at No. 2 behind just Seattle. 

Here's what PFF said about the Eagles' front seven: 

"It was a difficult decision between the Eagles and the Seahawks for the No. 1 spot, as this front-seven propped up a hodge-podge secondary to form one of the league’s most effective defenses for a good portion of the season. Brandon Graham and Fletcher Cox finished with the third- and fourth-highest pass-rushing productivity marks at their respective positions. Philadelphia’s front-seven also features a budding star in second-year linebacker Jordan Hicks, who led all players at the position with five interceptions."

Graham received the highest grade among the Eagles' front seven with a 93.3, while Connor Barwin received the worst at 42.1. Graham was the only Eagles player to make the PFF All-Pro team this year. To prove that stats don't always tell the full story, Graham finished with a half sack more than Barwin (6½ to 6). 

While the Eagles' cornerback trio of Leodis McKelvin, Nolan Carroll and Jalen Mills ranked 79th, 107th and 120th out of 120, respectively, their players across the front seven were much, much better. 

Hicks was ranked as the seventh-best middle linebacker and Nigel Bradham and Mychal Kendricks were both top-10 outside linebackers in 4-3 defenses. Graham was the top-ranked 4-3 defensive end and Cox was the fifth-best interior lineman.