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Verba on verge of being released

CLEVELAND -- Frustrated that he can't get a new contract,
offensive tackle Ross Verba will be released by the Cleveland
Browns once he repays a $465,000 roster bonus.

Verba and the Browns have agreed to the amicable split rather
than drag out a contract dispute that began when the eight-year
veteran said the club reneged on a promise to redo his current
deal, which will pay him $2.9 million in 2005 and 2006.

Repaying the bonus he received in March was one of two options
the Browns gave Verba and his agent, Tom Condon. The other was to
give Verba permission to seek a trade.

Condon's background with the Browns might have been a factor in
Verba's decision to buy his way out. Condon also represents Browns
running back William Green, who was told in February he could seek
a trade but is still with Cleveland.

A club spokesman said Verba has not yet returned the bonus, but
once he does he will likely be released.

"The bottom line is they don't want to pay me and if they don't
want to, then I'll play somewhere else," Verba said on WTAM-AM,
the club's flagship station. "They didn't uphold their end of the
bargain."

Verba said he'll give a check to the Browns on Thursday
afternoon and expects to be released shortly after that.

The 31-year-old sat out coach Romeo Crennel's voluntary
"passing camp" and demanded a new contract. Verba, who had two
years left on his deal, claims that former coach Butch Davis
promised to renegotiate his contract last year when Verba was
coming off a biceps injury that forced him to sit out all of 2003.

Verba insists he doesn't want to leave the Browns, but that the
club has left him no other option.

"As far as they are concerned, we're all replaceable," Verba
said.

Phil Savage, Cleveland's first-year general manager, has said he
will not honor any promises Davis made while running the Browns.

Verba, a first-round pick by Green Bay in the 1997 NFL draft,
was the only Cleveland offensive lineman to start all 16 games last
season.

The Browns have already made two moves to counter Verba's
anticipated departure. The club signed former Arizona tackle L.J.
Shelton last week and signed Marcus Spears, an 11-year veteran, on
Tuesday.

Verba didn't criticize owner Randy Lerner for the separation.

"It's unfortunate that the organization on the business side
did not uphold their end of the deal," he said.