Salary cap guides 49ers' decision

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The 49ers released quarterback Jeff Garcia on Tuesday, ending his five-year tenure with San Francisco.

Garcia's release came before Tuesday's 4 p.m. ET deadline for all teams to be in compliance with the NFL's $80.6 million cap ceiling. The 49ers also released two-time Pro Bowl guard Ron Stone in an
attempt to get under the cap.

The news comes as no surprise after Garcia rejected a cut in his base salary from $9 million to $5 million over the weekend. His cap number had gone beyond $12 million because of an escalator clause that transformed his base salary into the league's franchise number for quarterbacks. Garcia earned in excess of $20 million over the last two seasons -- more than any quarterback.

"We made this decision based primarily on cap ramifications,"
Niners general manager Terry Donahue said. "The reality of it is we're going along with a plan
we've established. In our view of things, we took the long-term
view. This isn't anyone's fault, there are just things we've got to

The clause was put into his contract to give his agent and the 49ers a chance to determine where they stood in their relationship. Garcia, 34, has been to three Pro Bowls in his five seasons with the 49ers and has quarterbacked one of the league's most exciting offenses.

The 49ers are in the midst of a tumultuous offseason because of the salary cap. They released left tackle Derrick Deese last week. San Francisco also plans to go without free agents Tai Streets and Terrell Owens in its receiving corps, although Owens is technically still with the team because his agent failed to file a timely void in the final three years of his contract by the deadline.

Garcia offered to return if the 49ers made up the $4 million difference in incentives. Instead, they were willing to give back to him $1.5 million if he reached his incentives. He finally said no. His departure will save the 49ers $1.7 million against the cap.

Garcia's departure will elevate four-year veteran Tim Rattay to the starting spot. A former seventh-round draft choice, Rattay, 26, played well at times last season, winning two of three starts in place of an injured Garcia. He will have a difficult time, though, matching Garcia's numbers.

Signed as a free agent in 1999 after a successful CFL career, Garcia started in 71 of his 74 appearances as a Niner. He completed 1,449 of 2,360 passes for 16,408 yards, with 113 touchdown passes, 56 interceptions and a passer rating of 88.3.

The former San Jose State star threw for more than 3,000 yards three times and had a 4,000-yard season in 2000. He twice threw more than 30 touchdown passes.

Meanwhile on Monday, Garcia's arraignment on drunken-driving charges was delayed until March 15. He faces two misdemeanor charges from his arrest on Jan. 14. According to San Jose police reports, Garcia's blood-alcohol level was .237 -- nearly three times the legal limit in California -- when he was pulled over.

ESPN.com senior writers John Clayton and Len Pasquarelli contributed to this report. Information from The Associated Press also was used.