49ers sign Garcia to lavish six-year deal
STOCKTON, Calif. (AP) – The San Francisco 49ers put their future in Jeff Garcia’s hands on Wednesday, signing their quarterback to a six-year, $36 million contract.
Garcia, 31, made the Pro Bowl last season after passing for 31 TDs and a team-record 4,278 yards. It was just his second NFL season and his first as a full-time starter, but the 49ers were thrilled by his aggressive play and his maturity.
”Jeff has come so far in really so short a time, but we all feel he’s the guy to lead this team,” coach Steve Mariucci said. ”He unquestionably deserves this contract.”
Garcia’s new contract cements his transition from an undrafted Canadian Football League star to the heir to the 49ers’ quarterback legacy of Joe Montana, Steve Young, John Brodie and Y.A. Tittle, general manager Terry Donahue said.
The lavish deal was a surprising move by the 49ers, who have been unable to make any large signings in recent years because of their severe salary cap restrictions. But Donahue said Garcia’s standout season and long-term potential justified a long-term contract.
”This will give you a great picture of our confidence in Jeff as our leader for a long time,” Donahue said.
His contract contains two voidable years. Garcia is guaranteed to make $8.1 million in signing bonuses during the first two years of the contract, but the money is structured so that the 49ers can fit under the salary cap and still sign first-round draft pick Andre Carter on Thursday.
The 49ers said they weren’t concerned about Garcia’s reckless style of play, despite the considerable financial investment they have made in him. Garcia plays a running, scrambling style similar to Young, who retired in 2000 after several concussions.
”We just want Jeff to continue to play and get better,” Donahue said. ”One of the reasons we rewarded Jeff with such a lucrative contract is his style of play … but our coaches will always be working with him to make sure he’s aware of the chances he doesn’t need to take.”
Garcia, a Bay Area product who grew up in Gilroy and attended San Jose State, spent five years in the CFL and won the Grey Cup with Calgary in 1998 before Bill Walsh signed him to back up Young in 1999. After Young was injured early in the season, Garcia started 10 games and threw for 2,544 yards and 11 TDs.
”Jeff has proven he wants the job he has by the way he worked in the last offseason and in the current offseason,” Mariucci said. ”He has come to camp a better quarterback both years.”
Garcia was the NFL’s fifth-rated passer last season with a 97.2 quarterback rating. He threw just 10 interceptions – none in any of the 49ers’ six victories.
Garcia was an exclusive-rights free agent, meaning that the 49ers needed only to make him a qualifying offer of $389,000 to retain his rights.
He was expected to arrive at the 49ers’ training camp in Stockton on Wednesday night. Practice begins on Thursday.
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