How will Pickens' act play out in Tennessee?

ON THE NFL

Pro Football

July 30, 2000|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

What is the price for being a moody malcontent these days?

For Carl Pickens, it was $1.5 million.

Pickens, who earned $8 million last year from the Cincinnati Bengals after a protracted holdout, was due to make $3 million with the Bengals this year.

Even the big contract didn't make Pickens happy. He annoyed the Bengals by suggesting, among other things, that Bruce Coslet wasn't the right coach for the Bengals. He may have been right about that, but it wasn't the appropriate thing to say after pocketing all that money.

So the Bengals finally dumped him after drafting Peter Warrick and Ron Dugans and getting assurances from the NFL Players Association that they could have a transition tag for next year.

Meanwhile, Pickens went through two agents and got some advice from Marvin Demoff, who also represents Tennessee coach Jeff Fisher, before negotiating a new deal with Tennessee himself.

He got a $500,000 signing bonus, a $500,000 base salary and a $500,000 advance on next year's salary. That's half the $3 million he would have made in Cincinnati.

The question now is whether there will be a next year for Pickens in Tennessee. If the Titans want to keep him, they'll have to pay him a $4.5 million roster bonus in March.

So Pickens will have to be on his best behavior and be a productive player this year.

The Pickens-Titans match seems be a marriage made in heaven. Pickens played at the University of Tennessee and the Titans can use a big-time receiver who caught 530 passes for 6,887 yards and 63 touchdowns for the Bengals. He could help the team go back to the Super Bowl.

"It's not very often at this point in a season when somebody of his caliber falls into your lap," said Tennessee general manager Floyd Reese.

It's now up to Pickens to prove he was a malcontent only in Cincinnati and can find happiness on a Super Bowl team with a new stadium.

Regarding his reputation in Cincinnati, Pickens said, "When everything around you is negative, you can't help but be negative."

He added, "What's not to be positive about [in Tennessee]? What's not to like?"

The question now is whether Pickens can find something not to like.

Dollars and sense

St. Louis quarterback Kurt Warner showed he hadn't lost his sense of perspective when he signed a seven-year, $46.5 million deal with the Rams.

The deal isn't quite as good as it looks on paper. He got an $11.5 million signing bonus, not the $17.5 million that was announced. He gets the extra $6 million only if the Rams decide to pick up the option for the final four years.

His total compensation for the first three years will be $15.7 million. Considering that Arizona's Jake Plummer got a $15 million signing bonus after winning one playoff game, Warner's deal didn't break the bank. The big winner will be his church because he donates 10 percent of his salary there.

He'll play for an average of about $5 million the next three years, then he'll bump up to an average of $7.5 million - $30.8 million for four years - if he proves last year wasn't a fluke and the Rams decide to exercise the option.

By signing, Warner showed he realizes he has to prove he wasn't a one-year wonder before joining the ranks of the highest-paid quarterbacks.

The starter

Look for Brian Griese to beat out Gus Frerotte for Denver's starting quarterback job. He got the endorsement of owner Pat Bowlen, who said, "I expect it to be Brian."

Meanwhile, former Denver tight end Shannon Sharpe, now with the Ravens, doesn't seem convinced Griese is the answer.

He told a Denver reporter, "Is [Griese] going to take them to the Super Bowl? I can't answer that. On one hand, Mike [Shanahan] did everything he possibly could to get Steve Young. That should tell you something."

Bowlen's reply: "Shannon will be Shannon."

Bowlen thinks it was best for the Broncos that Young retired.

"We had to develop a young quarterback for the future, and at this point, it looks like Brian's the guy," Bowlen said.

The Man in the hat

The Dallas Cowboys will wear a patch of Tom Landry's trademark fedora on their uniforms to honor the team's coach of its first 29 years. Landry died earlier this year. "This will be the first season for the Dallas Cowboys without Coach Tom Landry. Consequently, we thought it would be appropriate to honor him," said owner Jerry Jones. "We didn't need a name or any initials. The hat says it all."

Jones' clumsy firing of Landry the day he bought the team in 1989 prompted the NFL to pass a rule forbidding new owners to make personnel changes until the league approves the sale. Jones is on his fourth coach since firing Landry.

Scouting time

The Washington Redskins' practices in training camp are virtually a scouts' convention this year. That's because when a team charges admission to practice, opposing scouts are allowed to come and watch, and many teams are taking advantage. The Redskins became the first team to charge fans to watch practice this year, although teams often charge to watch scrimmages with other teams.

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