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Titans Sign Top Pick Kearse

Jevon Kearse planned to be playing football on the first day of training camp all along, and not even switching agents was going to stop him.

The Tennessee Titans' top draft pick kept to his plan Tuesday when he and his new agent, Leigh Steinberg, agreed to a five-year, $6.1 million contract hours before a mandatory team dinner for rookies and selected veterans.

"Jevon clearly wanted to be in camp from the first day," Steinberg said. "It was a high priority for him as it was for all of us. We knew it was going to end up being on time."

The Titans hadn't expected any negotiating problems with Kearse's first agent, William "Tank" Black. But Kearse fired Black last spring after he was accused by the NFL Players Association of providing cars and money to former Florida players, including Kearse.

Kearse, the No. 16 pick, has declined to talk specifically about Black, who also is being investigated by University of Florida police.

Florida coach Steve Spurrier responded to the probe by banning Kearse and other former players from using campus facilities.

"I'm just happy to get it all behind me and start my professional career," he said.

"It will be over real soon. It was an unfortunate situation, and I cooperated 100 percent with the authorities and let them know all they needed to know and I'd just like to get it behind me."

The contract includes a $3.85 million signing bonus and the chance to boost his pay by up to $4.5 million more with incentives in the final two years.

To fit the contract under the salary cap, the Titans now must try to renegotiate contracts with a couple of players or may be forced to cut a veteran like linebacker Lonnie Marts.

But general manager Floyd Reese said the money will be well spent if Kearse lives up to what the Titans expect of him.

"We think Jevon has the chance to be special. We think he will be special, and we will put a lot of pressure on him to be special," he said.

Kearse was nicknamed "The Freak" for his play at linebacker and defensive end at Florida. He earned All-America and All-Southeastern Conference honors as a junior last season when he totaled 16.5 sacks.

The Titans, who had one of the worst pass rushes in the NFL last season, plan to keep Kearse at left defensive end.

"As we've mentioned, we're not going to move Jevon all over our defense. We're going to line him up in one place and let him play," coach Jeff Fisher said.

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