Garcia opts to back up Harrington

After deliberating over several options, veteran quarterback Jeff Garcia has opted to join the Detroit Lions as a backup to starter Joey Harrington.

The two sides reached a contract agreement in principle Saturday afternoon, as Garcia bypassed job opportunities with the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks. Garcia will sign a one-year contract worth $2 million.

The decision reunites Garcia with Lions coach Steve Mariucci. Under Mariucci in San Francisco, Garcia enjoyed his most successful stretch. The Lions will be Garcia's third team in three years, but that is more a function of circumstance than a commentary on his abilities.

Garcia, 35, was released by the Cleveland Browns two weeks ago after playing one season of a four-year, $25 million contract, and following a 2004 campaign that clearly was a miserable experience for both sides. Garcia struggled behind a poor offensive line beset by injuries, was forced to play all but two games minus first-round tight end Kellen Winslow, and was relegated to performing in an offensive design that didn't suit his talents.

He started in 10 of 11 appearances and completed 144 of 252 passes for 1,731 yards, with 10 touchdown passes and nine interceptions. Garcia publicly bristled at times about the offensive blueprint, and about the direction of the franchise under then-head coach Butch Davis, and his comments didn't sit well sometimes with teammates and fans.

At his best directing a West Coast-style attack, Garcia will get the opportunity in Detroit to work in a system with which he is familiar and in which he has been proficient. After six seasons of being a starter, Garcia has indicated to every club with which he visited in the past two weeks that he is prepared to accept a backup role, if necessary.

Lions officials hope that Garcia will push Harrington to greater heights. The third player chosen overall in the 2002 draft, Harrington has been inconsistent as the Detroit starter, and Mariucci acknowledged at the conclusion of the 2004 campaign that it might be time to provide him some competition for the top job on the depth chart.

The Lions lost backup quarterback Mike McMahon on Friday, as the four-year veteran signed with Philadelphia as an unrestricted free agent. Detroit is in the process of revamping its pecking order behind Harrington. Although the team met with a number of free agent quarterbacks over the past two weeks and spoke with veterans such as Kurt Warner and Brad Johnson, Garcia was the man the Lions wanted all along.

In six seasons, the first five with San Francisco, Garcia has completed 1,593 of 2,612 passes for 18,139 yards, with 123 touchdown passes, 65 interceptions and a career passer rating of 87.2. A three-time Pro Bowl performer, he has thrown for 3,000 yards in three season and, in 2000, threw for 4,278 yards. He posted 63 touchdown passes combined for the 2000-2001 seasons.

The former San Jose State star spent the early part of his professional career in the CFL before signing with the 49ers in 1999. He was released by San Francisco last spring for salary cap reasons.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click hereInsider.