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Russell Gage reportedly will sign with Buccaneers

The Falcons lose another free agent, this time to a division rival.

Atlanta Falcons v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

Russell Gage is leaving Atlanta, joining the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and leaving the Falcons with an even thinner receiving corps on the eve of free agency. Heading into the offseason it seemed as though the Falcons would prioritize Gage, Foye Oluokun and Cordarrelle Patterson, and now two of those players are gone.

On a wild day for reports and rumors for Atlanta and a day where it was reported that Olamide Zaccheaus is returning to the Falcons, Gage lands what’s likely a lucrative deal from a division rival.

Per Zach Klein, it’s a three year deal.

Gage, 26, joins Tom Brady in Tampa Bay, which was clearly hoping to add more weapons for the recently un-retired quarterback. Gage has shown he can be a short-to-intermediate volume option in a passing attack and functioned as Atlanta’s nominal top option aside from Kyle Pitts last year, and the Buccaneers clearly saw a player who fit well on their offense.

Viewed primarily as a special teamer by draft analysts when the Falcons took him in the sixth round back in 2018, Gage stepped into an expanded role at the urging of then-wide receivers coach Dave Brock when Mohamed Sanu was traded. Since the 2019 season, by dint of his own work and the long absences of Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley, he led the team in receptions and is second in yardage and touchdowns.

Gage was Atlanta’s third receiver until he wasn’t. The past two years, Gage has had to step into roles as the team’s nominal #2 and then #1 receiver owing to injuries and absences, which was a difficult ask. He got off to a brutally slow start in 2022 but caught fire in the second half of the year, delivering a series of big games when the Falcons needed them. I figured the team would prioritize bringing him back given his familiarity with Ryan and perhaps they did, but ultimately he’s headed elsewhere.

Atlanta now has Zaccheus, Frank Darby and a pair of reserve/future contract players on the squad at wide receiver, plus Kyle Pitts if you consider him as much a receiver as a tight end. No matter how you slice it, this team has to put dollars and draft capital into the position to give Matt Ryan or whoever ends up under center a fighting chance in 2022.

We’ll wish Gage well except when he plays the Falcons and we’ll wish nothing but ruin upon Tampa Bay, as is custom. The Falcons have a lot of work to do on their receiving corps this offseason, to put it mildly.