SAN JOSE — The Earthquakes declined an option on veteran defender Ramiro Corrales and four other players Wednesday, but the 2012 All-Star is expected to return next season in a new role.
In a move to remain within Major League Soccer's salary cap, the Quakes didn't pick up options on Joey Gjertsen, Ike Opara, Khari Stephenson, Tim Ward and Corrales.
The club, though, is negotiating with Corrales, the last remaining active player from the league's inaugural 1996 season. Corrales, 35, is expected to perhaps become a player/coach as he begins transitioning into coaching.
"Ramiro will be back," general manager John Doyle said Wednesday. "We just said we'll change his role a little bit. He's playing well. You never want to discount him."
With the Earthquakes winning their second Supporters' Shield in club history management rewarded a handful of players with raises. That meant some high-priced veterans either had to take pay cuts or try to get signed at their current rate with another club.
While Corrales chose to renegotiate a contract with the Quakes the others opted to try their luck in the re-entry draft that will be held in two phases in December. If no other team chooses them the players can renegotiate deals with San Jose at a lower salary than they made in 2012.
"Ideally we'd like to get everyone back and keep it within the salary cap," Doyle said. "Under current numbers, we can't do that."
Corrales made $183,875 this season, according to figures released by the MLS Players' Union. Stephenson made $203,333.33; Opara $185,900; Gjerstsen $93,625, and Ward $65,000.
Corrales, who grew up in Salinas, has said he would retire if he didn't re-sign with the Earthquakes. He scored two goals and had seven assists in 22 appearances in 2012. He was a commissioner's pick to the All-Star team for what Corrales has done throughout a 14-year career as much as his play during the first half of the season.
Opara, 23, scored three goals in 35 career appearances with the Earthquakes after getting picked third overall in the 2010 draft. The Generation Adidas player missed most of 2010 and 2011 with foot injuries but appeared in 16 games this year. He found himself in a reserve role behind centerbacks Victor Bernardez and Jason Hernandez.
The Quakes didn't have to pay his full salary through the Generation Adidas program that promotes young U.S. talent. But with the Adidas contract ending San Jose would have had to pay all of his salary next year.
Stephenson, a Jamaican international, had two goals and three assists this season as a backup midfielder. He couldn't break into a starting role because promising young players Rafael Baca and Sam Cronin found good chemistry in the central midfield.
Gjertsen, 30, missed the season after having knee surgery. The Quakes would invite the outside midfielder to preseason camp if he is not picked up by another team, Doyle said. But he might have trouble finding playing time on the wings with this year's additions of Marvin Chavez and Shea Salinas both returning.
Ward, a defender who missed much of 2011 and all of 2012 because of injuries, probably won't return.
Contact Elliott Almond at 408-920-5865 and follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/elliottalmond.