NFL Insider Addresses Russell Gage’s Future With Falcons

Russell Gage future with Falcons

Getty Russell Gage #14 of the Atlanta Falcons.

Russell Gage entered the 2021 season as the Atlanta Falcons‘ No. 2 wide receiver, but little did he or anyone else know he would be forced to take over the No. 1 role.

Things got spooky when Calvin Ridley announced his decision to step away from football on Halloween and it was up to Gage to step up to fill his void while backup Tajae Sharpe filled in at the No. 2 spot.

While he’s listed as the Falcons’ top receiver, he has not played up to that kind of caliber––well, until recently. He missed much of the early season due to an ankle injury and when he did finally make his return, his performance was very inconsistent and there were ever games where he didn’t catch a single catch.

But then he became a ball magnet. In Atlanta’s Week 13 30-17 loss to the Buccaneers, Gage had himself a 100-yard receiving day, marking the first from a receiver all year. He led the team that day catching 11 of 12 targets for a career-high 130 yards.

He carried that momentum with him through Week 14 to Week 16, clearly gaining Matt Ryan’s trust as a real No. 1 receiver.

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Gage Is Set to Become an Unrestricted Free Agent

With the end of the season right around the corner, the Falcons will have a big decision to make concerning Gage, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent.

Heavy’s own Stephanie Otey recently caught up with Falcons’ insider for ESPN, Michael Rothstein, where they dove into the topic of Gage’s emergence with the team and his future in Atlanta.

“In the last month or so he’s been more involved in the game plans and that’s been pretty clear because teams are taking away Kyle Pitts,” Rothstein said of Gage. Teams are starting to figure out how to defend Cordarrelle Patterson. So, opportunities have been there for Gage.

“And it is coming at a good time for him, if not for the Falcons as well because Russell Gage is a free agent after this year. And if you would have asked me a month and a half ago, I would have been like ‘Oh man, Russell Gage has to go somewhere on a prove-it deal,’ because of how poorly he was playing. Now, with the way he’s been playing the last four weeks, he might be playing his way into at least a decent contract whether that’s in Atlanta or elsewhere.”

Gage was drafted by the Falcons in the sixth round of the 2018 NFL draft and signed a 4 year, $2,616,194 contract, which also included a $156,194 signing bonus, $156,194 guaranteed and an average annual salary of $654,049, per Spotrac.

If he keeps playing he’s been playing up until the end of the season, he’ll be looking for a better deal from Atlanta or elsewhere, since UFA’s are free to negotiate with other teams as opposed to restricted free agents.

Gage’s Future in Atlanta Remains One Big Question Mark

There’s a lot more that goes into a simple yes or no when it comes to re-signing players and Rothstein explained to Otey, who was curious if the Falcons should give him another deal, why the decision is so difficult.

“I don’t know. I say that because they have so many guys that they need to try to either re-sign or areas you need to fill,” he said. “When you look at their roster, literally every position is a question mark at this point. From quarterback, which is what’s going to happen with Matt Ryan either this year or do they start to figure out the future beyond Matt Ryan, all the way down to long snapper.”

According to Rothstein, the Falcons have just 27 players guaranteed to come back next season out of a 90-man preseason roster with the only receivers under contract being Calvin Ridley and Frank Darby. But just because there is plenty of room for Gage on the roster to come back next season, doesn’t mean he’ll get an easy pass.

“It’s going to matter on whether they feel that Russell Gage’s emergence here later in the season is more of a sign of things to come versus just kind of a guy like ‘oh man I need to make money in a contract,’ Rothstein said. “And whether or not they can afford him because they have all of these guys they need to figure out, including Cordarrelle Patterson, including Younghoe Koo, who is a restricted free agent, Foye Oluokun, who is a major piece of their defense––everywhere they’ve got questions.”

What it’s ultimately going to come down to Gage’s overall worth to the team as a “No. 1 receiver,” as he has compiled just 594 receiving yards on 54 catches and 3 touchdowns, and his price tag.

“Russell Gage might just, by process of elimination and maybe by cost, not fit into those plans because they have so many holes to fill and only so many dollars to play with because of massive contracts to Matt Ryan and Grady Jarrett and Jake Matthews, among others,” Rosthein concluded.



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