The Tampa Bay Buccaneers may be focused on keeping the band together, particularly after their front man returned to the mic, but they still have room for a new band member. On Friday, two days into the NFL's 2022 free agency period, the Buccaneers officially announced the signing of former Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Russell Gage.
A former sixth-round pick out of LSU in 2018, Gage has been a productive pass-catcher for the Falcons over the past three seasons and was particularly impressive during the second half of the 2021 campaign, when Atlanta was playing without star receiver Calvin Ridley. Over the last eight weeks of the season, Gage ranked eighth among all NFL players in both receptions (50) and receiving yards (611) while scoring four touchdowns.
The 6-0, 184-pound Gage finished the 2021 season with 66 catches for 770 yards and those four scores, nearly duplicating his 2020 line of 72 receptions for 786 yards and four touchdowns. Overall, Gage has played in 61 games with 21 starts and has recorded 193 catches for 2,065 yards and nine touchdowns. Last season he set career highs with 8.2 yards per target and 70.2% catch rate on those targets.
The Buccaneers didn't need to grind a lot of tape to be convinced that Gage could help their passing attack. In Atlanta's Week 12 loss to Tampa Bay last December, the fourth-year wideout set career highs with 11 catchs for 130 yards on 12 targets.
Tampa Bay's Tom Brady-led offense will still feature one of the NFL's most prolific wide receiver duos in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin in 2022, but Gage should be a prime candidate for the third receiver spot. In addition, if Godwin's recovery from a torn ACL suffered in December extends at all into the regular season, Gage has proved he can step in for such high-end starters as Ridley and Julio Jones and be productive.
Gage's versatility will help the Buccaneers, too, as he can play on the outside or in the slot. Last season, he lined up wide on 55% of his offensive snaps and in the slot on 42% of them. He caught 31 passes for 301 yards out of the slot in 2021 and 152 of those yards came after the catch.
Gage joins a receiving corps that also includes such contributors as Tyler Johnson, Scotty Miller, Cyril Grayson and Jaelon Darden. Last year, with Brady at the helm, the Buccaneers led the NFL in passing yards and touchdown passes.