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Browns release Verba after bonus paid back

CLEVELAND (June 9, 2005) -- Ross Verba can now try to convince some other team that he's worthy of being paid like one of the NFL's best left tackles.

Unhappy and feeling disrespected, Verba paid back a roster bonus to the Cleveland Browns, who then released him.

"We felt this decision was in the best interest of both the Browns and Ross," general manager Phil Savage said in a statement.

Verba, the only Cleveland lineman to start all 16 games last season, agreed to return the bonus he received in March if the Browns promised to release him. The 31-year-old had held out of the team's "passing camp" in a contract dispute, saying he was willing to sit out the entire 2005 season if the club didn't give him a new contract.

Not only did the Browns not give in to his demands, the club wasted little time in severing ties with Verba.

A former first-round draft pick, Verba has said he wants be paid on a par with St. Louis All-Pro Orlando Pace and Seattle's Walter Jones, who make about $7.5 million per season. Verba was under contract to make $2.9 million in 2005 and 2006.

Drafted by Green Bay in 1997, Verba played four seasons with the Packers before signing a four-year free agent deal with Cleveland in 2001. Verba started at left tackle in '97 for the Packers, becoming the first rookie to start at the position in the Super Bowl.

In his first season with Cleveland, he played 12 games at left guard before moving to tackle for the final four games. Verba started 16 games in 2002 when Cleveland made the AFC playoffs.

He tore a biceps muscle in the final preseason game of 2003 and missed the entire regular season. With Verba coming off an injury, the Browns asked Verba to restructure his contract before last season.

The eight-year veteran claims that former Cleveland coach Butch Davis promised to redo his deal. Savage, the Browns' rookie GM has said he will not honor any guarantees by the club's previous front office.

Verba is expected to be replaced in the starting lineup by former Arizona tackle L.J. Shelton, who signed as a free agent last week. The team also signed 11-year veteran offensive lineman Marcus Spears as a backup.

"With the return of Ryan Tucker, Jeff Faine and Melvin Fowler, and the addition of free agents Joe Andruzzi, Cosey Coleman, L.J. Shelton and Marcus Spears, we're excited and confident in our offensive line," Savage said.

Verba started 47 regular-season games and one playoff game during his time with Cleveland.

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