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Browns sign OT Spears; Verba seeks trade

CLEVELAND (June 7, 2005) -- With disgruntled starter Ross Verba seeking a trade, the Cleveland Browns added another left tackle, signing 11-year veteran Marcus Spears to a one-year contract.

Verba demanded a new contract last week, prompting the Browns to give him permission to talk with any team willing to trade for him. Verba started all 16 games last season, the only Browns lineman who didn't miss any time.

After Verba went public with his displeasure that Cleveland seemed unwilling to give him more money, the Browns signed former Arizona tackle L.J. Shelton. He's expected to replace Verba on the club's revamped offensive line this season.

Verba says the Browns have reneged on a promise to give him a raise after he reworked his deal in 2004. He is due about $7.2 million for the next two seasons and has already been paid a $465,000 bonus.

Verba has started 100 games since being drafted in the first round (No. 30 overall) by Green Bay in 1997.

While he seeks a new team, Verba, 31, has been excused from taking part in coach Romeo Crennel's passing camp.

The 6-foot-4, 320-pound Spears, who has played with Chicago, Kansas City and Houston, gives the Browns depth and experience at a position where they've had trouble the past few years.

The Browns released defensive backs James Boyd and Jamall Johnson.

Spears played in all 16 games, making three starts for the Texans last season. He was drafted by the Bears in the second round (No. 39 overall) in 1994.

Spears has made 21 starts and played in 104 games during his pro career. He started 16 games in 2001 for Kansas City, helping running back Priest Holmes rush for a league-leading 1,555 yards.

In addition to their new tackles, the Browns signed free agent guards Joe Andruzzi and Cosey Coleman during the offseason. Center Jeff Faine and right tackle Ryan Tucker will be the only starters back in 2005.

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