Contract reportedly for four years, $16 million

Arguably the best and also best-known player remaining in the unrestricted free agent pool, Tampa Bay Bucs defensive tackle Warren Sapp likely won't be unemployed much longer, ESPN.com has learned.

Updated: March 19, 2004, 8:10 PM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

Arguably the best and also best-known player remaining in the unrestricted free agent pool, Tampa Bay Bucs defensive tackle Warren Sapp likely won't be unemployed much longer, ESPN.com has learned.

 Warren Sapp
Sapp

League sources told ESPN.com that Sapp on Friday night moved very close to agreement with the Cincinnati Bengals on a four-year contract. Some issues remain to be resolved but, barring a setback in the negotiations, the sources said, a deal could be struck on Friday or Saturday.

"If everything goes right," said one source with knowledge of the contract discussions, "something could happen in a matter of hours. There are still some other teams involved but it's moving pretty quickly now with (the Bengals)."

On his Web site, Sapp had listed six franchises with which he would consider continuing his career. It has been clear for the past week that Cincinnati, which reportedly has made a four-year, $16 million offer, has been more aggressive than other suitors.

Early in free agency, coach Marvin Lewis said that landing a veteran defensive tackle was his top offseason priority. The Bengals lost out on other free agents, most notably former Oakland tackle Rod Coleman, who signed with Atlanta.

Landing a player of Sapp's profile, even if his game has declined some, would be huge for the Bengals on and off the field. Sapp has not visited with the Cincinnati officials or coaches but has said he won't need a meeting for something to be completed.

Just as the Bengals' ardor for Sapp has been obvious, so has the lack of interest on the part of Tampa Bay officials in retaining the nine-year veteran. There have been no substantive discussions between Bucs officials and representatives for Sapp, and it now appears both sides are prepared to move on.

A seven-time Pro Bowl player, Sapp is coming off a season in which he totaled 58 tackles and five sacks. The sacks were the fewest since his rookie season in 1995.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.