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Pickens Picks The Titans

The Cincinnati Bengals couldn't wait to get rid of Carl Pickens. The Tennessee Titans couldn't wait to land the Pro Bowl wide receiver.

Pickens agreed to a five-year deal with the AFC champion Titans on Wednesday, ending his free agency a week after being released by the only team he has ever played for in the NFL.

"We are delighted to add a player of Carl's caliber to the roster," said Titans general manager Floyd Reese, who did not reveal the financial terms of the deal.

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"You always look for playmakers on both offense and defense and Carl definitely qualifies as a playmaker."

When the Bengals released Pickens, it ended what had become an acrimonious relationship between the NFL's worst team of the 1990s and a star receiver who kept saying he wanted to play for a winner.

The relationship turned sour in 1999 when Pickens was designated the franchise player. He vowed to sit out the season before being given a one-year contract, and then a five-year, $23 million deal. But he publicly criticized the team and demanded a trade. His release followed a settlement with the NFL Players Association.

Pickens will sign the contract Thursday, Reese said, because the two-time Pro Bowler had to fly home to pack for training camp. He will miss the team's trip to Macomb, Ill., to practice with the St. Louis Rams, and will report Sunday.

Pickens negotiated with the Titans by himself for two days. Asked early Wednesday if he would have anyone read a new contract, Pickens said he knows what to look for after eight years in the NFL.

"This is my third time going through this situation," Pickens said. "I'm the one that has to deal with the deal at the end of the day, so I kind of know what I want. I can come down here and sell myself. I don't need an agent to tell me yea or nay over a contract I can read and understand."

Pickens starred at the University of Tennessee in the early 1990s and has friends in Nashville.

The Titans lured him to town Tuesday morning, and he had been meeting with team officials, coaches and players since.

Coach Jeff Fisher said he wasn't worried about Pickens' effect on the locker room, given what happened with the Bengals.

"I think he's been misunderstood. He just wants to win," Fisher said.

Pickens talked with Pro Bowl running back Eddie George, backup quarterback Neil O'Donnell and receiver Yancey Thigpen. O'Donnell played with Pickens in Cincinnati in 1998, and Thigpen's injury is why the Titans so desperately want to sign Pickens.

Thigpen has been slow to recover from ankle surgery in April and may miss most of training camp. But he said he looks forward to playing with Pickens, although he didn't see the deal as pushing him to play.

"I don't need another person to affect my motivation, not at all," he said.

Quarterback Steve McNair said Pickens makes the Titans "a lot stronger."

Pickens has more career receptions (530) than anyone on the Titans and has more than double the touchdowns (63). Thigpen has 260 career catches, while tight end Frank Wycheck, who has led the team in receptions the past four seasons, has 318.

Fisher said the team made it clear to Pickens he will have to compete for a job like everyone else. But he will play at the split end position, and Kevin Dyson likely will move to the other side.

"When Yancey is healthy, we'll play the best two. It's understood by all of them," Fisher said.

The Titans still have room under the salary cap with the contract, but they likely will be cutting someone soon. They learned Wednesday that cornerback Donald Mitchell is out for the season after tearing the ACL in his right ligament.

Reese said they are looking to bring in somebody for the secondary.

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