Quarterback Aaron Garcia is one of 15 free agents recently signed by the Niners as they begin to develop their roster for the 2002 season. The newest Garcia - coming off a record-setting season in the Arena League - is expected to battle for one of San Francisco's two roster berths at quarterback behind starter Jeff Garcia, who made the Pro Bowl this year for the second consecutive season.
Aaron Garcia probably will challenge 2000 third-round draft pick Gio Carmazzi in training camp for the No. 3 role behind Jeff Garcia and his 2001 backup, Tim Rattay. Coincidentally, Aaron Garcia and Carmazzi both were star quarterbacks for Sacramento prep powerhouses during their high school days. Garcia, who was Pac-10 Freshman of the Year at Washington State, later transferred to Sacramento State, whose head coach then was Greg Knapp, now the Niners' offensive coordinator.
Garcia joins the Niners after a record-setting career in the Arena Football League. Garcia was the 2001 Arena League Offensive Player of the Year after passing for 4,515 and 104 touchdowns. That's right, 104 touchdown passes in one season.
The 49ers also signed kicker Jamie Rheem, who will compete with incumbent Jose Cortez - and possibly others - for a job with the Niners next season. Rheem apparently was leading a close competition with Cortez in training camp last year when Rheem pulled his hamstring while making a 53-yard field goal. That allowed Cortez an opportunity to grab hold of the position, and he never let go. But after a strong start to the 2001 season - when he made his first 11 field-goal attempts - Cortez struggled with his accuracy and his kickoffs in the second half of the season.
The 49ers also signed several free agents who were with the team in training camp last year or at some point during the season. Included among those names are offensive linemen Milford Stephenson, Mark Bristol and John Feugill, defensive linemen Jerome Davis and Shawn Hay, tight end Ben Steele, safety Brian Smith, wide receiver James Jordan and fullback Jasen Isom. Newcomers signed to the roster include punter Andrew Bayes, tight end Neil Johnson, defensive back Ontei Jones and running back Jamal Robertson.