NFC Rival Set to ‘Steal’ $30 Million Playmaker From Bucs

Russell Gage

Getty Russell Gage could become a salary cap casualty with the Buccaneers this offseason.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers could make wide receiver Russell Gage a salary cap casualty, and the Green Bay Packers could make a steal as a result.

Bleacher Report’s Alex Kay tabbed Gage as one the “top potential NFL cap causalties” and “steals” in this offseason. Kay linked Gage to “clubs with glaring holes in the receiving corps”, which includes the Packers — a team that lost star receiver Davante Adams in 2022 and missed the playoffs.

Gage will earn $12.1 million with the Bucs in 2023, and the Bucs sit at $55.7 million over the salary cap, per Spotrac. The Bucs also can’t escape taking a cap-hit from recently retired quarterback Tom Brady, who counts for $11 million against the cap for 2023, per Yahoo Sports’ Nick Bromberg. Similar to Kay, Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times identified Gage as one of the team’s “most-like salary-cap casualties” due to hamstring injuries all season.

A free agent signing in 2022, Gage played just 13 games and caught 51 passes for 426 yards and five touchdowns. His first touchdown notably came against the Packers in Week 3 of the season, a 14-12 loss, when offensive issues for both teams manifested.

“Gage may be coming off his lowest receiving yardage total since his rookie campaign, but 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,” Kay wrote.

“He had a strong two-year stretch between 2020 and 2021 in which he racked up 1,556 yards and eight touchdowns on 138 receptions and could easily regain that form on a budget-friendly free-agency deal,” Kay added.

Packers Likely to Have Space for Gage

The Packers have a substantially better salary cap situation than the Bucs with $16.5 million over the cap, per Spotrac. Green Bay also has free agent receivers in Randall Cobb and Allen Lazard to consider. Signing Gage could aid the Packers, especially if superstar quarterback Aaron Rodgers stays.

Stroud noted that the Bucs “could save about $2.8 million on the salary cap if they want to move from Gage now” and have enough receivers.

Bucs Could Use Gage, but It Would Hurt in 2024

While the Bucs have Mike Evans and Chris Godwin under contract, three other veteran receivers — Julio Jones, Scotty Miller, and Breshad Perriman — could all hit free agency. Gage might not be too expendable because of the Bucs’ free agency situation.

Gage came to Tampa with high expectations as a free agent in 2022 after he signed a three-year, $30 million contract. He caught 193 passes for 2,065 yards and nine touchdowns in four seasons with the Atlanta Falcons previously.

The Bucs had Gage in mind as a third receiver or insurance for Godwin amid his ACL recovery, Stroud wrote. Keeping Gage gives the Bucs a solid trio of top receivers, but it could hinder keeping Evans after 2023 as Kay noted. Brady’s cap hit also doesn’t get better in 2024 with a $24 million hit, per Bromberg.

“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,” Kay wrote.

Evans is 29, but he has been consistent throughout his nine-year career with more than 1,000 yards receiving every season, an NFL record.