Cleveland gets Garcia

Posted: Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Jeff Garcia's search for a new team ended quickly in Cleveland.

The 34-year-old former 49ers quarterback agreed to a $25 million four-year contract with the Browns on Tuesday, six days after being released by San Francisco. The deal almost surely means Cleveland will release Tim Couch, the first overall pick in the 1999 draft.

Garcia held serious talks with Tampa Bay, but went for the offer from the Browns.

''I think it's going to be a perfect fit,'' Garcia said. ''The Browns showed a real desire for me to be here, and they felt I could make a difference.''

Cleveland has tried to get Couch to rework his contract. He rejected an offer last week that would have cut his salary by more than half. Now it appears Couch will be playing elsewhere next season.

Garcia was San Francisco's starting quarterback since 1999. In 2000, he set a franchise record, passing for 4,278 yards and earning his first Pro Bowl berth. Garcia was a mobile, steady and tough-nosed competitor in San Francisco, attributes that endeared him to Browns coach Butch Davis.

Meanwhile, the league's players union officially asked an arbitrator to make Terrell Owens a free agent, claiming San Francisco didn't have the rights to trade the wide receiver to Baltimore.

The case will go to Steven Burbank of the University of Pennsylvania Law School, who was selected jointly by the league and the NFL Players Association early last year to arbitrate such contract disputes.

Owens was prevented from becoming a free agent when the NFL Management Council ruled last week that his agent, David Joseph, failed to void the last two years of his contract by a Feb. 21 deadline.

Last Thursday, the 49ers traded Owens, one of the top three wide receivers in the league, to Baltimore for a second-round draft choice, turning down a proposal from Philadelphia, the team he said he wanted to play for. Owens reiterated Monday he doesn't want to play for the Ravens.

In another development involving a marquee player, Warren Sapp's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, said Tampa Bay's star defensive tackle will begin considering offers from other teams. The 31-year-old seven-time Pro Bowler has expressed a desire to stay with the Bucs, but has not received an offer.

''There are 31 other teams in the NFL,'' Rosenhaus said. ''The likelihood is that he will be playing for one of them next season.''

The Bucs, meanwhile, agreed to terms with running back Charlie Garner, 32, who played for coach Jon Gruden and general manager Bruce Allen in Oakland. Garner started nine games for the Raiders last season, when he was plagued by knee injuries.

But in 10 seasons, he has rushed for nearly 7,000 yards, caught more than 400 passes and scored 51 touchdowns as one of the league's top multi-purpose backs.

Tampa Bay also added guard Matt O'Dwyer and linebacker Keith Burns.

In other moves:

Duce Staley signed a five-year contract worth $14 million with the Steelers. The deal includes a $4 million signing bonus.

Staley spent the last seven seasons with the Eagles, and is expected to boost the Steelers' running game, which ranked 31st last year. That was the worst ranking under coach Bill Cowher.

Darrell Jackson, after Owens the best wide receiver on the free-agent market, was re-signed by Seattle, which also re-signed defensive tackle Cedric Woodard.

''There are some great opportunities out there,'' he said. ''But I like it here and I feel this team is on its way up. I want to be part of that because I feel like I helped build it.''

The Ravens re-signed kicker Matt Stover, the only player left who moved with the old Cleveland Browns to Baltimore after the 1995 season. Stover, 36, is fourth in career field goal percentage at 82.3 percent.

Linebacker Dhani Jones, who had 120 tackles and three sacks for the Giants last season, signed with Philadelphia. He will replace Carlos Emmons, who signed with the Giants.

San Diego signed linebacker Randall Godfrey to a three-year contract and will play him in the middle of a 3-4 alignment. Godfrey, entering his ninth NFL season, had 59 tackles for the Seahawks last year.

Jacksonville signed 34-year-old guard Mike Compton, who spent all but two games last season on injured reserve with New England. The Jaguars also signed two cornerbacks, former Steeler Dewayne Washington and former Brown Lewis Sanders.

Washington, which spent nearly $50 million in signing bonuses the first week of free agency, signed 38-year-old punter Tom Tupa, who spent the last two seasons with Tampa Bay.

Miami renegotiated the contract of perennial Pro Bowl cornerback Sam Madison, saving about $3 million in salary cap space.

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