AUGUST 17: Gage did not suffer an ACL tear, but Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times indicates the veteran wideout ruptured his right patellar tendon (Twitter link). Gage will undergo season-ending surgery this week.
AUGUST 16, 12:21pm: The injury will end up sidelining Gage for the season, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com tweets. While it is not known if Gage suffered a torn ACL, that would stand to be the expected prognosis here. Either way, the Bucs will be down one of their top pass catchers for the 2023 slate.
10:53am: As the Buccaneers’ offense sputtered, Russell Gage‘s first Tampa Bay season did not go quite as planned. The sixth-year wide receiver may not step on the field for a second Bucs campaign.
Gage suffered a non-contact knee injury during a joint practice with the Jets on Wednesday, and Ian Rapoport and Mike Garafolo of NFL.com report the belief is this malady will end the veteran pass catcher’s season (Twitter link). A cart transported Gage off the practice field.
Ahead of Tom Brady‘s third and final season with the team, the Bucs gave Gage a three-year, $30MM deal to join Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. After improving over the course of his Falcons rookie contract, Gage generated interest on the open market. But he did not take off with the Bucs. The LSU alum totaled 51 catches for 426 yards — numbers well off his 2020 and ’21 outputs — as the Bucs’ offense fell off a cliff in 2022. Gage’s first Bucs season also ended with a concussion sustained in the team’s wild-card loss. He soon accepted a pay cut — in exchange for additional 2023 guarantees — to stay with the team.
Tampa Bay still rosters its long-running Evans-Godwin tandem, but Scotty Miller is now with the Falcons after signing a low-cost free agency pact. A Gage injury will would this year’s team more as well, with Julio Jones also no longer on the roster. The Bucs drafted Trey Palmer in Round 6, but their offense — to be quarterbacked by Baker Mayfield or Kyle Trask — will be down its expected WR3 if this report turns out to be accurate.
Gage, 27, topped 700 receiving yards in both the 2020 and ’21 seasons in Atlanta, helping then-Matt Ryan-quarterbacked teams compensate for absences at the position. Gage broke through as an auxiliary option initially due to Jones’ hamstring injury in 2020 and then stepped up as Ryan’s top wideout in 2021 after Calvin Ridley left the team midway through that season. Those two showings catapulted Gage into free agency, and the Bucs — despite having Evans signed to an $18MM-per-year deal and franchise-tagging Godwin — authorized a third eight-figure-per-year wideout accord.
Losing Gage would represent familiar territory for the Bucs, who saw Ryan Jensen go down with a regular-season-ending knee malady during training camp last year. While Jensen returned in time for the wild-card loss to the Cowboys, he may not be a lock to start this season on time.