TAMPA ― The Bucs had big expectations for Russell Gage when they signed the free-agent receiver to a three-year, $30 million contract last March with $20 million guaranteed.
But Gage had a pretty underwhelming first season in Tampa Bay, missing four games due to a hamstring injury and catching only 51 passes for 426 yards with five touchdowns and a career-low 8.4 yards per reception. He suffered a concussion in the wild-card loss to Dallas.
Given the Bucs’ tenuous salary-cap situation, Gage agreed to take a pay cut to remain with the team. Under the new deal, Gage’s base salary was lowed to a veteran minimum of $1.08 million, and he received $5.29 million in signing bonus for a guaranteed $7 million.
Much of that could be made up with performance incentives if Gage produces the way he did his final two seasons in Atlanta, when he averaged 69 receptions for 778 yards and an 11.3 yard average.
Gage is due to make $10 million in 2024, but the Bucs shortened the contract and added a club option after this season.
“Russell had experienced a difficult year because of the injury,” Bucs general manager Jason Licht said at the NFL scouting combine. “He’s not used to being injured. This is the first time that he had been injured, and he did step up late in the year and made some big plays for us in some big moments.
“I would say, you know, we were expecting more, but I don’t think it was because of Russ. I think it was because of the injury.”
Tampa Bay will have its top three receivers ― Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Gage — back next season.
The Bucs on Friday saved $44 million in cap space by restructuring the contracts of Godwin, cornerback Carlton Davis, center Ryan Jensen and defensive tackle Vita Vea. They now have done enough to become compliant with the $224.8 million cap by Wednesday’s 4 p.m. deadline.
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