NFL Cougs: dollars, Achilles, carbon and more

IT'S BEEN AN EVENTFUL month for former Cougar cornerback Jason David. On Friday, the restricted free agent signed an offer sheet with the New Orleans Saints that the Colts can meet or beat if they want to retain the three-year starter. Two weeks ago, David received one of the largest bonuses in the NFL's performance-based pay system that aims to more fairly match compensation with playing time.

Jason David started every game for the Super Bowl champions and earned a base salary of about $350,000. Through the performance-based system, he just got another $181,000.

In 2006 he had 53 tackles, including 38 solos, plus two interceptions and a fumble recovery.

The performance-pay system is built around an index that compares the relative playing time and salary of each team's players. In 2005, the NFL's single-largest performance bonus -- $228,000 -- went to David's old batterymate at Washington State: Erik Coleman of the Jets.

If David, who has started 43 games in his three NFL seasons, ends up with the Saints, the Colts would receive a draft pick as compensation. Under restricted free agency, the round of the draft pick must be the same one that the player in question came into the league with. In David's case, that would be the fourth round -– effectively giving the Saints a true steal of a deal.

TROY BIENEMANN, THE second-most prolific pass-catching tight end in Washington State history behind Butch Williams, has signed a one-year contract with the Arizona Cardinals after a weekend tryout with the NFL club, the Arizona Republic reports. Bienemann, a four-year starter at WSU from 2002-05, had a free agent tryout with New Orleans a year ago but reinjured a knee in mini-camp and was cut. Over his last two seasons at WSU he caught 50 passes for 566 yards. He also was a three-time All-Academic selection.

JOHN LYNCH, DENVER'S long-time star defensive back, says age and injuries may be looming over the Broncos' corps of safeties, but he sees a bright future at the position because of former Washington State standout Hamza Abdullah. Abdullah, a seventh round draft choice in 2005, has been used sparingly by the Broncos since they picked him up from Tampa Bay two years ago, but Lynch told the Denver Post recently that he thinks Abdullah has a chance to become a star.

RIEN LONG, ONE OF the great defensive linemen in WSU history, is still rehabbing the Achilles tendon he tore in training camp last summer. While the injury shelved him for all of 2006, the Tennessee Titans didn't hesitate in re-signing the fourth-year free agent. The 2002 Outland Trophy winner inked a one-year deal. Titans coach Jeff Fisher told the Nashville Tennessean he's hopeful Long will be able to participate in some of the team's upcoming mini camps.

One of Long's Titan teammates, former first-team All-American Cougar free safety Lamont Thompson, could be in a battle this year to remain in the starting lineup. The Titans just signed former Falcons and Saints starter Byron Scott to a one-year contract.

LEGENDARY WSU quarterback Drew Bledsoe, the No. 1 overall pick in the 1993 draft, announced his retirement last week after 14 NFL seasons. Asked if there's any chance he could be lured back, the 35-year-old Bledsoe said no way. He's got his health intact, plus young kids who need their dad watching them play games in the fall rather than vice versa, he said. Bledsoe leaves the game ranked fifth on the NFL's all-time list for pass attempts and completions; is seventh in passing yards (44,611), and 13th in TD passes (251). In addition, no NFL player earned more money –- an estimated $62 million -- between 1993 and 2003.

STEVE GLEASON, THE spirited linebacker from WSU's 1998 Rose Bowl team, has made a nice home for himself over the years in New Orleans as a special teams standout and backup safety. He's frequently in the headlines down south for his outstanding philanthropic work. Now he's turning heads in the environmental community because he runs his old truck on processed vegetable oil, offsetting his carbon footprint.

Center Cory Withrow has resigned with the San Diego Chargers ... Center Nick Mihlhauser, on the Chargers' practice squad last season, has signed with Tampa Bay ... Punter Kyle Basler, under contract with the Browns, last week made his debut in NFL Europe ... Linebacker James Darling is a free agent but word out of Phoenix is that the Cardinals are trying to resign him ... Another old Cougar named Darling, injury-plagued receiver Devard Darling, is a restricted free agent but recently was tendered by the Ravens and is expected back in Baltimore for a fourth season ... Jason Gesser, the backup quarterback with the AFL's Utah Blaze, has thrown only two passes so far this season but both were completions and one went for a touchdown.

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