San Jose Mercury

49ers say farewell to Stubblefield
February 27, 2003

By Dennis Georgatos
Mercury News

Defensive tackle Dana Stubblefield and guard Dave Fiore, onetime mainstays of the 49ers, were released Wednesday as part of the team's nearly $7 million payroll cut to get under the cap before today's deadline.

The 49ers restructured the contracts of quarterback Jeff Garcia, safety Tony Parrish and defensive end Andre Carter.

That brings the number of restructured contracts to seven, saving the 49ers about $8 million against the cap, General Manager Terry Donahue said.

The 49ers saved an additional $4.7 million with the release of Stubblefield, 32, and Fiore, 28, who become unrestricted free agents. The free-agent signing period begins Friday.

``We hated to say goodbye to those guys but we're excited and delighted to be under the salary cap,'' Donahue said. The 49ers are an estimated $3 million under the cap.

The 49ers weren't just realizing payroll savings, however. They were also spending some dough to retain key players.

Quarterback Tim Rattay, long snapper Brian Jennings and wide receiver Tai Streets, all restricted free agents, were tendered offers to ensure first-refusal rights and compensation should another team make an offer. Streets was given a $1.3 million offer; Rattay and Jennings were each offered $605,000.

Age, health and performance as well as finances figured in the release of Fiore and Stubblefield, both longtime starters, Donahue said.

Stubblefield, who had been slated to receive $2.325 million this year, was one of the team's vocal leaders. He and Bryant Young anchored the middle of the 49ers' defense in the two years since Stubblefied returned to the team as a free agent after three seasons in Washington. But Donahue said the play of Stubblefield, a first-round pick of the 49ers in 1993, slipped noticeably late last season.

Stubblefield's agent, Neil Cornrich, was unavailable for comment.

Fiore's hallmark was versatility, having played every position on the offensive line. But he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee Sept. 22 against Washington and finished the season on injured reserve. It was the fourth major knee surgery -- he's had two on each leg -- for Fiore, who would have been due a $500,000 bonus Friday and a $2 million salary if he had remained on the roster.

Donahue said the history of knee problems with Fiore ``was a major concern. At the financial point he was, it was very difficult for us to continue at that.''

Donahue said he didn't expect the 49ers to be very active in the free-agent market, though that could change, depending on the market conditions. He said the 49ers would try to re-sign defensive end Chike Okeafor, the team's only starter heading for unrestricted free agency.

Donahue said the 49ers hope to begin talking with Terrell Owens' agent, David Joseph, about a long-term deal after the draft. Owens has a year left on his contract.

Wide receiver J.J. Stokes survived the first round of cuts, but he could still be let go after June 1.

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