Buccaneers wide receiver Russell Gage will reportedly miss the 2023 season after suffering what is being called a "severe" knee injury during a joint training camp practice with the New York Jets, creating a massive void in Tampa Bay's wide receiver corps.
Gage, 27, was expected to fill the Buccaneers' No. 3 receiver role, alongside Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. He had caught a career-high 51 passes for 426 yards with five touchdowns, while averaging 8.4 yards per catch, during the 2022 campaign.
As the regular season nears, it would not be surprising to see the Buccaneers and general manager Jason Licht shop for help at the position — although multiple league sources tell FanBuzz that Tampa has high hopes for rookie Trey Palmer, chosen in the sixth round of April's NFL Draft.
Here's a look at five ideal fits for the Buccaneers, if Licht looks to make a move to replace Gage:
The top of the Buccaneers' receiver depth chart has some star power with Godwin and Evans. Jarvis Landry would push that group even higher up the list of top receiving corps across the league.
Despite shoddy and inconsistent quarterback play last season, Landry still averaged 10.9 yards per reception for the New Orleans Saints while pulling down 25 receptions for 272 yards and one touchdown.
Landry still has plenty left in the tank after making five Pro Bowls and finishing as the NFL's leading receiver in 2017. With him offering the versatility of having experience being lined up wide and from the slot, Saints quarterbacks posted a 75.5 passer rating when targeting him, and he didn't drop a pass. That kind of reliability is exactly what the Buccaneers need.
T.Y. Hilton would certainly bring a steady veteran presence to the Buccaneers' receiving room.
According to league sources, Hilton is still weighing whether he wants to play in 2023, after catching seven passes for 121 yards in three games with the Dallas Cowboys last season.
Hilton forged a standout career during his time with the Indianapolis Colts, making four consecutive Pro Bowls and catching 631 passes for 9,691 yards and 53 touchdowns across 10 seasons. Despite limited playing time in Dallas, Hilton still showed some flashes of being able to create separation against opposing cornerbacks, which is something the Buccaneers could use given the relative inexperience at the position.
Irvin Charles, New York Jets
In recent years, NFL teams have made no secret of the fact that coaching staffs and personnel departments heavily use joint practices and the film from those workouts to scout players potentially available via trade or who could wind up being available as teams trim their rosters to 53 players ahead of the regular season.
Through that lens, Irvin Charles could be an ideal fit for the Buccaneers.
By all accounts, Charles has had a strong training camp and start to the preseason with the Jets, especially developing chemistry with backup quarterback Zach Wilson. Currently buried as the No. 7 receiver on the team's depth chart, Charles was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Jets last spring after catching three passes for 110 yards and a touchdown at Penn State prior to transferring to Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
If Charles, at 6-foot-4 and 219 pounds, is available and the Buccaneers' coaching staff was impressed by him during joint practices, the 26-year-old could be a name to watch.
Auden Tate has spent the past several years on the fringes of NFL rosters, including last season on the Philadelphia Eagles' practice squad. After getting released during training camp by the Arizona Cardinals, he could be an intriguing fit for the Buccaneers.
Tate has appeared in 35 games, catching 61 passes for 799 yards with a pair of touchdowns, across five seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals. Given his experience — and his 6-foot-5, 227-pound frame — Tate could push for opportunities, especially as a red zone weapon for quarterback Baker Mayfield.
Greg Ward, Philadelphia Eagles
The Philadelphia Eagles have built one of the deepest wide receiving corps in the league, and veteran Greg Ward could be a candidate to either be released or traded at some point this summer.
Ward, at 5-foot-11 and 190 pounds, is a prototypical slot receiver who has caught 88 passes for 130 yards and 10 touchdowns across the first 40 games of his NFL career. Back in 2021, Ward averaged a career-high 13.6 yards per reception.
Tampa Bay could use the 2023 season as an audition for the 28-year-old to prove whether he can be a viable long-term solution as the No. 3 wide receiver, especially after Eagles quarterbacks posted a 139.6 passer rating on his 10 targets back in 2021.
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