Tackle chase closing

3-22-01, 10:55 p.m.


In the derby for free agency's two top tackles, Ross Verba and Todd Steussie, the Bengals hope to have some answers Friday.

The activity speeded up Thursday with Steussie returning home after touring Cincinnati, Denver, and Cleveland, and Verba visiting Carolina while also being pursued by the Browns.

For Verba, 27, a former first-round pick, it could come down to the Browns and Bengals, the teams with the most room under the NFL's salary cap.

But he would be a right tackle for the Browns. The Bengals would make him a left tackle, the position he says he prefers after playing there for the first three years of his career before the Packers switched him to left guard last season.

The Bengals also covet Steussie, 30, a former two-time Pro Bowler. But the heat has been turned up by Denver with a multi-year offer. The Broncos, according to national sources, have the third most room under the cap.

Carolina is the other team talking to Verba about playing left tackle. But the Panthers don't have near the room under the salary cap that the Bengals and Browns do.

Steussie left Cleveland without an offer as the Browns seem content with Roman Oben at left tackle.

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