Packers Primed to ‘Steal’ $30 Million WR From NFC Rival

Russell Gage, Buccaneers

Getty Wide receiver Russell Gage of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers celebrates a touchdown during a game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Raymond James Stadium on December 18, 2022 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)

Regardless of who starts at quarterback in 2023, the Green Bay Packers will be hunting for some playmakers in the passing game this offseason.

However, with nearly $16.5 million to shed just get the salary cap back into the black, the Packers will need to hunt talent at value. That most likely means looking for bargains via the draft or free agency.

A good place to start is with potential salary cap casualties around the league — players who retain legitimate worth but will be cut by their current teams in the interest of balancing the books. One such wide receiver who may fit the bill is Russell Gage of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Bucs brought Gage over from the division rival Atlanta Falcons in 2022, though the offense sputtered as the team stumbled to an early playoff exit and the official end of the Tom Brady era in the NFL. As Tampa Bay considers hitting the reset button, there is no pressing need for Gage’s talents at the annual price of $10 million over the last two years of his three-year contract.

Packers Can Land Gage at Value Should Bucs Decide to Part Ways

Russell Gage

GettyWide receiver Russell Gage of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers catches a touchdown pass during a game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Raymond James Stadium on December 18, 2022 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

Alex Kay of Bleacher Report on Monday, February 6, made the case for the Bucs to part ways with Gage, as well as the case for teams with playmaking needs (like the Packers) to take a hard run at him should he become available.

There is a good chance the 27-year-old still has plenty left in the tank as he gears up for his sixth professional season. Unfortunately for Tampa Bay, there is a real chance his bounce-back year won’t be in the same uniform.

Given that the Bucs are over $55 million in the red, they’ll need to make some sweeping changes to get under cap. They can get some cap relief in 2023 by pushing the dead money from Brady’s contract to next year, but they’ll have tough decisions to make regarding several veterans, including Gage.

While half of his $10 million base salary has already been guaranteed, the Buccaneers can still save nearly $3 million by releasing him this offseason. With Mike Evans going into the final year of his deal with a cap hit of nearly $24 million, Tampa must find a way to free up any money it can for an extension if it doesn’t wish to deal the star.

Packers Can Expect Resurgent Year From Gage if He Lands in Green Bay

Packers Week 13 Playoff Picture

GettyQuarterback Aaron Rodgers (left) and wide receiver Allen Lazard (right) of the Green Bay Packers celebrate a touchdown during a game against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium on December 1, 2019 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

Gage appeared in 13 games for the Bucs last year, putting up 51 catches for 426 yards and five touchdowns, per Pro Football Reference. However, he averaged 69 catches for 778 yards and four touchdowns across the two seasons prior.

Those numbers are likely only to improve if Gage is paired with young wideouts Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs, even more so if quarterback Aaron Rodgers returns to Green Bay in 2023. Gage is a more than serviceable veteran replacement for Allen Lazard, should the Packers either fail to bring Rodgers’ favorite target back in free agency or decide he doesn’t fit their long-term plans.

This year’s free agent class isn’t going to blow any executives or coaches away in Green Bay, with Jakobi Meyers of the New England Patriots and Odell Beckham Jr. of nowhere last season (the entirety of which he missed due to injury) topping the list of receivers on the market.

But both Meyers and Beckham are each in line for big years and big dollars and their coming contracts — $64 million over four years for Meyers and $33 million over three years for Beckham, per Brad Spielberger of Pro Football Reference.

A strong case can be made for Gage producing at least somewhere in the neighborhood of Meyers’ and Beckham’s respective ceilings next season, though at a considerably better financial value — a concept that is going to matter a great deal for the Packers in 2023.

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