Contra Costa Times

49ers cut way under the cap
February 27, 2003
By Cam Inman

SANTA CLARA - Defensive tackle Dana Stubblefield and guard Dave Fiore, two of the 49ers' leading spokesmen in recent years, were released Wednesday night as the team fit under the league-mandated, $75 million salary cap a day ahead of schedule.

"We hated to say goodbye to those guys, but we are excited and delighted to be under the cap," 49ers general manager Terry Donahue said at team headquarters.

Donahue said the 49ers created an additional $8 million in salary cap room by restructuring the contracts of seven players -- quarterback Jeff Garcia, defensive end Andre Carter, right tackle Scott Gragg, center Jeremy Newberry, fullback Fred Beasley and safeties Tony Parrish and Zack Bronson.

Part of the 49ers' cap room already has been allotted for the contracts tendered to three restricted free agents -- wide receiver Tai Streets ($1.318 million), backup quarterback Tim Rattay ($605,000) and long snapper Brian Jennings ($605,000) -- and two exclusive rights free agents -- cornerback/return specialist Jimmy Williams ($375,000) and punter Bill LaFleur ($300,000).

Stubblefield, a 10-year veteran, was scheduled to make $2.325 million in base salary in 2003. Fiore, a seven-year veteran, was to earn $2 million in base salary. Donahue said the team didn't approach either player to take a pay cut.

"At times, Dana played very well," Donahue said. "At other times, he struggled, particularly toward the end of the year, when his weight got higher on him. And he's not as young as he used to be."

Stubblefield was listed at 290 pounds last season, during which he received the Garry Niver Award from Bay Area beat writers for his professional conduct with the media.

Stubblefield returned for a second stint with the 49ers in 2001. He played his first five years with the 49ers after they drafted him in the first round in 1993. After three unproductive seasons with the Washington Redskins, Stubblefield returned to the 49ers and started in all but one game the past two seasons. Stubblefield ranked 10th on the team with 43 tackles last season, also totaling three sacks.

As for Fiore, his fate apparently was sealed on Sept. 22, when he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee for the second time in his career.

"Dave's had four knee operations and that was a major concern, and at the financial point he was at, it was very difficult for us to continue at that," Donahue said.

While Donahue said nine-year veteran Jim Flanigan or second-year player Josh Shaw might replace Stubblefield in the starting lineup, he added that the upcoming draft is rich with defensive linemen. Eric Heitmann, a seventh-round draft pick last year out of Stanford, became the starting left guard after Fiore got injured.

Donahue said the 49ers won't be very active in free agency, though they would like to re-sign defensive end Chike Okeafor, who's slated to become an unrestricted free agent Friday.

Streets' high tender means the 49ers would receive a first-round draft choice as compensation if another team signed him and the 49ers refused to match that offer. For another team to acquire either Rattay or Jennings, it would have to give up a seventh-round pick.

NOTES: Donahue said he plans to wait a couple months before beginning negotiations on a long-term contract for wide receiver Terrell Owens, whose contract expires after next season. ... The team declined to tender offers to two other restricted free agents -- safeties Ronnie Heard and John Keith -- and two other exclusive rights free agents -- wide receiver Vinny Sutherland and linebacker Quincy Stewart. ... Donahue said the 49ers will meet today with University of the Pacific officials to discuss whether the 49ers' training camp will remain at the school's campus in Stockton.

Tell us what you think on the new 49ers Clubhouse message board.