Bucs Release Royals, Vance & Gooch

February 26 - In a cost-cutting move, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers released three veterans as they attempt to reach the NFL's 2002 salary cap figure of $71.1 million. Linebacker Jeff Gooch, punter Mark Royals and safety Eric Vance were all cut on Tuesday.

To obtain some salary cap relief, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers released linebacker Jeff Gooch, punter Mark Royals and strong safety Eric Vance on Tuesday. Their dismissal frees up close to $3 million. Releasing Gooch freed up $2 million, while Royals' departure saves $440,000 and cutting Vance saves $473,000.

The team received some salary cap help when left guard Randall McDaniel retired, freeing up $2 million in salary cap space. Prior to McDaniel's retirement and today's roster moves, Tampa Bay was $9.4 million over the 2002 salary cap.

The Buccaneers have until March 1 to trim their team payroll to the NFL mandated salary cap of $71.1 million.

Gooch, a six-year veteran, notched 136 career tackles, six forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, 1.5 sacks and 85 special teams stops in 88 career games, including 21 starts. Gooch was signed as a free agent out of Austin Peay University in 1996.

His best season was in 1998, when he started every contest at the strongside linebacker position and recorded career highs with 72 tackles, one sack, a team-high four forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and nine special teams tackles. Gooch, a top special teams performer, played in 13 games during the 2001 season, posting 13 tackles on defense and 16 special teams stops.

Royals, a 14-year veteran, spent five years (1990-91, 1999-2001) with Tampa Bay and ranks first in team history with 414 career punts. He also set the club's single-season record with 26 punts inside the 20 in 2001. Royals boasts 992 career punts for 41,754 yards (42.1 avg.) with stops in Philadelphia, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Detroit and New Orleans. Last season, Royals punted 83 times for 3,382 yards (40.7 avg.).

Vance, who entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent with Carolina in 1997, spent the past four seasons with the Buccaneers. He tallied 13 tackles on defense and 20 special teams stops in 33 career games with one start. Vance was placed on injured reserve on December 27 last season after seeing action in 10 games, notching two tackles on defense and six with the special teams.

All three players could be re-signed by the Buccaneers at a later date, or perhaps head to Houston where former Tampa Bay special teams coach Joe Marciano is now in charge of the Texans' special teams. Marciano thought highly of all three players, who were ace special teams performers.

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