With final roster adjustments close on the horizon, the New England Patriots have reportedly made a move to bolster their defensive backfield for 2021.
New England will send both a 2022 seventh-round pick and a 2023 fifth-round pick to Baltimore Ravens for rookie cornerback Shaun Wade. The trade was first reported by Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, while the compensation was reported by Jeff Zrebiec of the Athletic.
Welcome to New England, Mr. Wade
The 22-year-old was the 160th pick by the Ravens in the fifth-round of the 2021 NFL Draft. During his time at Ohio State, Wade was a highly-touted prospect; even viewed as a potential first round pick. Regrettably, his performance during the 2020 season caused his draft stock to plummet. In his final season with the Buckeyes, he was moved from the slot to outside cornerback. As a result, Wade often struggled to keep pace with his opponents. It was later revealed that had been playing with turf toe, an injury which required offseason surgery. Despite his struggles, Wade still won the Tatum-Woodson Defensive Back of the Year award, given to the best defensive back in the Big Ten Conference. While he has performed well for the Ravens thus far in the preseason, he faced steep competition in a crowded corps of Baltimore cornerbacks.
What it means for the Patriots
At 6-foot-1, 190-pounds, Wade has adequate size to play either the slot or outside corner for New England. As the Patriots had been lacking depth at the position throughout camp, Wade’s acquisition should help add some strength and physicality to their defensive backfield. At his best, Wade is aggressive at the catch point, while showing an ability to read his opponent. Though he did struggle a bit with covering quick receivers during his final season at Ohio State, some of the blame should be placed on his injury. Thus far, Wade has shown no signs of being hampered by that injury. In fact, he snagged an interception in Baltimore’s first preseason game.
While many will speculate that he has been acquired to offset a potential departure, Wade’s addition looks to fill the Patriots need for depth at the position, without ancillary context.
Though star cornerback Stephon Gilmore has yet to participate in training camp or preseason activities (Gilmore is currently on the physically unable to perform, or PUP, list) he is expected to rejoin the team when healthy. In addition to his recuperation from offseason quad surgery, Gilmore has also been the subject of much speculation when it comes to his contract. Set to make just over $7 million in salary in 2021, the 30-year-old is reportedly seeing a contract extension from New England. Ultimately, it is in the best interest of both parties to come to an agreement. When healthy, Gilmore is still one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL and the Patriots defense is much more effective with him in the lineup. As such, Wade’s acquisition is not likely to be a harbinger of things to come regarding Gilmore’s future in New England.
Rather, Wade is likely to compete with New England’s depth corners for a roster spot, including Joejuan Williams, Dee Virgin, D’Angelo Ross and Michael Jackson, Sr. It should be noted that the Patriots do have their injury concerns at the position as well. Former undrafted free agent Myles Bryant has missed time with an injury, while cornerback/core special teamer Justin Bethel has missed practice time as well. On Thursday, slot corner Jonathan Jones left practice with a leg injury. Should any of the three be forced to miss time, Wade would be an adequate substitute.
With NFL rosters set for reduction to 53 players by 4:00pm ET on Tuesday, August 31, Shaun Wade faces a tight deadline for earning a roster spot. However, his upside and pre-draft prowess were certainly enough for the Patriots to invest draft capital to procure his services. Will it be enough? Time may be scarce, but it will tell.