BARBER-SHOP QUARTET

Four teams seriously vying for LB's services, but is there a frontrunner?

With four teams "seriously interested" in the services of linebacker Shawn Barber, The Insiders has learned that the Browns have begun very preliminary contract talks with free-agent linebacker Shawn Barber.

However, talks between Cleveland and Barber will not reach the serious stage until there is a resolution to their Earl Holmes situation, a Browns source said.  Barber's agent, Brian Mackler, confirmed to The Insiders that there have been contract numbers discussed with the Browns,

Mackler also added that the presence of Foge Fazio -- who spent the 2000 season with Barber in D.C. -- as the Browns' defensive coordinator "certainly would help Cleveland's cause."

Barber visited the club on Monday, and left yesterday for a two-day visit in New York with the Giants.  It's believed that the Giants are Barber's top choice, but the cap-strapped club may not have the space to make the LB an offer he can't refuse.

A third team, the Vikings, surfaced yesterday as a potential destination for the four-year LB. Minnesota phoned Barber's agent, Brian Mackler, late yesterday morning and, though a solid date was not set for a visit during the conversation, there is strong interest on the part of the Vikings.

A visit to Minnesota could be scheduled for later this week or early next week, pending the outcome of his visit with the Giants and the ongoing talks with the Browns.

While the Redskins have an interest in re-signing Barber, it's highly unlikely, given the signing of Jessie Armstead, that they will be anything more than a minimal player.


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