TAMPA — TE Luke Stocker, whose seven-year run with the Bucs was the third longest on the current roster, was waived Tuesday as the team takes a look at younger players in the final five games of the season.
Stocker, 29, had been inactive the past two games and had just three catches for 18 yards and a touchdown this season. The Bucs also waived veteran DE Darryl Tapp, promoting rookie DE Pat O'Connor and second-year TE Alan Cross from the practice squad to take their place on the roster.
Among the current Bucs, only OT Demar Dotson (2009) and DT Gerald McCoy (2010) have been with Tampa Bay longer than Stocker, a fourth-round pick out of Tennessee in 2011. He finishes his Bucs tenure with 52 catches for 400 yards and three touchdowns. He played for four head coaches in his seven seasons — Raheem Morris, Greg Schiano, Lovie Smith and Dirk Koetter.
Tapp, signed last month, had two tackles and one sack in three games.
O'Connor, who spent the past seven weeks on the practice squad, was a seventh-round pick by the Lions this year out of Eastern Michigan. He had 81/2 sacks and five forced fumbles as a college senior and will try to add a spark to a pass rush that ranks last in the league with 15 sacks.
Cross, who spent all of last season with the Bucs as an undrafted rookie, played the first three games of this season, catching two passes for 11 yards. The Bucs had played rookie Antony Auclair the past two games in place of Stocker.
The Bucs also signed rookie CB Maurice Fleming to their practice squad. Fleming was featured on HBO's Hard Knocks in preseason when he played through a knee injury to help preserve the Bucs' win against the Jaguars. He earned a $102,000 injury settlement and worked out for the team last week. CB David Rivers was released to make room for Fleming.
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Since Stocker was on the opening-week roster as a vested veteran, his $1.7 million base salary is fully guaranteed, so he'll earn $500,000 for the remaining five weeks even though he isn't playing. … By going 2-for-2 on field goals Sunday against Atlanta, kicker Pat Murray is now 32-for-38 for his Bucs career. That's 84.2 percent, ahead of Connor Barth (83.8 percent) for the highest career field-goal accuracy in team history. … As Pro Bowl fan balloting continues, the Bucs are promoting three players for consideration: McCoy, WR Mike Evans and LB Lavonte David. McCoy and Evans were Pro Bowl selections last season.