One point of emphasis for the NFL during the 2011 negotiations on a new collective bargaining agreement was inserting language into the new deal that would allow teams to recoup signing bonus money from players who are imprisoned or suspended.

If Aaron Hernandez winds up in legal trouble related to the investigation of a homicide of one of his associates, that tweak in the CBA's language could cost the New England Patriots tight end nearly $37 million.

Hernandez is in the midst of a five-year contract extension through the 2018 season that he signed last summer. With that deal, he got a $12.5 million signing bonus. Under the old CBA, that amount would've been fully guaranteed in the case of imprisonment, as the New York Giants learned.

In 2008, the Giants tried to withhold a $1 million payment of Plaxico Burress' signing bonus after he shot himself in the thigh. The NFL Players Association and the league went before a special master, with the Giants arguing Burress' actions should've voided the guarantee on his signing bonus.

At the time, the only language in the CBA concerning such issues stated a player would forfeit bonus money via a "willful" action, such as a holdout. The Giants argued Burress' carrying a gun into a club and discharging it himself constituted a willful action; the special master disagreed and ordered the team to pay Burress the $1 million remaining payment of his signing bonus.

The NFL wanted to strengthen the language to allow teams to recoup bonus money, and they did just that.

The new CBA states a player commits a "forfeitable breach" when he "willfully fails to report, practice or play" while healthy, retires, suffers an injury due to "an activity other than football which may involve a significant risk of personal injury" or "is unavailable to the team due to conduct by him that results in his incarceration."

With those guidelines in place, Hernandez stands to lose up to $10 million of his signing bonus, depending on the amount of time he would be incarcerated or suspended. He has earned one-fifth of the prorated bonus by playing last season, and that amount cannot be paid back. Any bonus forfeiture moving forward would be prorated based on how many weeks he would be unavailable to the Patriots.