NFL.com’s Gregg Rosenthal just released his Top 101 NFL Free Agents list, and what he had to say about Falcons wide receiver Russell Gage was straight to the point.
“Russell Gage was such a stone-cold badass down the stretch of last season that I felt bad for how little I thought about Russell Gage before that,” wrote Rosenthal.
After battling injuries the first half of the season, Gage (26) finished strong with 50 catches for 611 yards and three touchdowns in 8 games. Extrapolated across a 17 games season, and Gage would have 106 catches for 1,298 yards and 9 touchdowns… stone-cold badass indeed.
Gage is Rosenthal’s No. 41 free agent on his list, the highest of any Falcons player.
One might have thought that slash running back Cordarrelle Patterson would have checked in higher, but Rosenthal doesn’t trust the sample size.
“I want to rank him higher,” wrote Rosenthal of the 49th ranked Patterson. “But after nearly a decade of watching four other teams use Patterson so poorly, I don’t trust him as an offensive threat anywhere but with Falcons coach Arthur Smith.”
Linebacker Foye Oluokun is the third and final Falcons player to make the list. The NFL’s leading tackler is ranked 85th on Rosenthal’s list. The market for inside linebackers isn’t a strong one, but Oluokun should get a hefty raise on his $2.2 million 2021 compensation.
The Falcons have shown the desire to bring all three pending free agents back in 2022. Gage made similar money to Oluokun last year, and Patterson was on a one-year $3 million deal.
Each those players can expect their value on open market to at least double. The Falcons once again find themselves up against the salary cap at -$6.6 million of available space… that’s minus six point six million, before adding any more players.
General manager Terry Fontenot will have his work cut out for him to try and lower the cap hits of players such as Grady Jarrett ($23.8 million), Jake Matthews ($23.7 million) and Deion Jones ($20 million) as well as the biggest cap hit in the NFL… Matt Ryan ($48.7 million).
The Falcons went 7-10 last year with what was considered a depleted roster. They’ll need to bring back their own free agents at team friendly prices (relatively), or it will get worse before it gets better.