In almost all situations, when an NFL player is suspended, he forfeits all of the future guarantees in his contract. Even if a signing bonus or base salary is guaranteed for skill, injury and salary cap, a "failure to perform" or "failure to practice" clause makes those guarantees null and void.

In a surprising twist, this appears not to be the case with the five-year, $40-million extension signed by New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez in August of 2012. Upon close reading of his contract language -- and after confirming the development with an expert -- the "failure to perform" or "failure to practice" clause that appears in similar Patriots extensions is not present. This means Hernandez might be able to keep nearly $2.5 million of the deal, even if legal troubles prevented him from taking the field.

This could have a serious effect on Hernandez if he is ever suspended by the Patriots or the league for his connection to an ongoing homicide investigation in North Attleboro, Mass.

Exactly what does this mean?

According to his amended contract, Hernandez is guaranteed a total of $16 million. Of that, $9.25 million in a signing bonus already has been paid, with the final $3.25 million due in March 2014.

The rest of it comes in guaranteed base salaries for the 2013 and 2014 seasons, along with $1 million total guarantees in workout bonuses for the 2014 and 2015 offseasons. According to Paragraph 32(d) of his amended contract, the workout bonus is "null and void" if the player fails to report.