Who could the Bucs turn to in order to fill a big role?
Unfortunately for Gage and the team, the worst possible outcome was a reality and Gage will now miss the entire 2023 season. So now what? Where do the Bucs look now fo number three wide receiver? These free agents could make sense.
This one is an obvious connection with Tampa Bay as Landry played with Baker Mayfield while in Cleveland. The 30-year-old receiver is still on the market after not re-signing with the New Orleans Saints and playing in just nine games for the team in the 2022-23 season. Landry totaled 25 catches for 272 yards and one receiving touchdown last year and while it is clear he isn’t the player he once was, he could still be a solid veteran presence that has experience with the likely QB1.
The issue here, and really for all of these names is money. The Bucs currently have a little over $400,000 in salary cap space. While they could make some moves and free up money, it is unlikely that a player like Landry would accept the veteran minimum, so the Bucs may have to pay more than they are comfortable with doing, but Landry would be a solid option.
A free agency cautionary tale is still on the market after the Giants decided to part ways with him in the offseason. After being a great player for the Detroit Lions, Golladay would sign a massive four-year deal with the New York Giants worth $72-million in 2021. Unfortunately, Golladay could not find the same success in New York that he did in Detroit, only starting four games last year and totaling just 81 yards receiving as well as having one touchdown reception, which was his one and only touchdown with the Giants.
Now Golladay is on the market and the Bucs could pursue him if they choose, but I am not sure how much of a scheme fit he is for what they could look for in a WR3. Golladay’s days of being a number one option are over and he could be decent depth for a WR needy team. I’m just not sure the Bucs are the right team so I would consider this one unlikely.
Ah, Sammy Watkins. The player who was drafted three spots ahead of Mike Evans and has carved out a solid career, but not one that matches Evans’ production. Now Watkins is once again on the market looking for his third team in a calendar year. He has been a solid supporting receiver in the NFL but has had issues staying healthy. Watkins would certainly bring a speed element to Tampa Bay’s offense.
In 2022 Russell Gage dealt with a lot of injuries throughout the entire season so I’m not sure if the Bucs would want to take another chance on an injury prone receiver. Watkins is an intriguing name and would provide good veteran depth though and that is something the Bucs could be looking for if they choose to go the veteran route with replacing Gage.
Will the Bucs look to the free agent market to find a replacement for Russell Gage? Based on their cap situation, probably not however if they do decide to make a few moves to clear out some money, these names could make some sense. Tampa Bay is no longer in a championship contention window, but that doesn’t mean they don’t wish to be competitive so I think they will definitely consider bringing in a veteran, even if they decide against it in the end.