Sources: Team pursues bonus return

Nearly three months after they wrote a $21 million check to defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, the Washington Redskins will try to get it back, according to league sources.

Before Haynesworth made the decision not to report to the Redskins' mandatory minicamp that kicked off Wednesday, the NFL Players Association assured him that the bonus money on the contract he restructured March 12 would be his to keep, one source said.

But another knowledgeable NFL source who reviewed Haynesworth's contract and the collective bargaining agreement Wednesday morning said this issue is "open to interpretation," now that the defensive tackle has declined to report to a mandatory minicamp, and the Redskins are expected to pursue whatever money they can.

The source added: "This is the type of case where a long shot may be given an extra hard look because it is so egregious."

Haynesworth is unhappy with the way the Redskins used him last year and the way they would use him in the 3-4 defense this year. The Redskins are upset that they paid Haynesworth the richest defensive contract in NFL history and that he wants to be traded before he has had a chance to play for the new regime in Washington.

At issue is the bonus money paid to Haynesworth -- $26 million overall since the defensive tackle signed the first $100 million contract for a defensive player in NFL history in March 2009.

The NFLPA and Haynesworth's camp certainly will argue that the current collective bargaining agreement's signing bonus forfeiture language prohibits the Redskins from going after any of Haynesworth's signing bonus.

But there are NFL insiders who believe the Redskins may have a case against Haynesworth, given the specific language in his March 12 contract.

The dispute signals that before the Redskins would consider trading Haynesworth, they first will look to get back some of the money they paid him in what could turn into a battle that lands on the desk of the NFL's Special Master.

It also puts the NFLPA in a difficult spot, because it will have to take a stand publicly defending Haynesworth. Although players such as Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson and New England Patriots guard Logan Mankins want lucrative new deals, Haynesworth became the highest-paid player in history at his position -- then chose not to honor the contract because he didn't like the way he was going to be used in the Redskins' defense.

In the end, the NFLPA will have to defend Haynesworth. But that will not endear it to the public at a time when it is gearing up to battle the NFL on a new collective bargaining agreement.

Adam Schefter is ESPN's NFL Insider.