One day after trading running back Sony Michel to the Los Angeles Rams, the New England Patriots have made another move. According to reports, the team has acquired defensive back Shaun Wade from the Baltimore Ravens in exchange for two late-round draft selections.
What exactly does the trade mean from the Patriots’ perspective, though? Let’s find out.
The Patriots believe in Wade’s upside
After his 2019 season, Wade was seen as a potential first- or second-round draft pick. However, a 2020 season that saw him struggle mightily after moving to the outside cornerback position in coordinator Kerry Coombs’ defense, hurt his draft stock; Wade was selected 160th overall by Baltimore in May.
His athletic upside and versatility are still intriguing, even though the Ravens have not found a way to properly use them in their own deep secondary. New England apparently trusts its process, and believes that it can tap into his potential as a do-it-all defender and former five-star college recruit.
The Patriots add versatility to their defensive backfield
While Wade aligned primarily as a perimeter cornerback during his senior season at Ohio State, he actually offers plenty of versatility and can successfully play various spots in the Patriots’ secondary. He has experience as a slot cornerback, box safety and even free safety on top of the outside position.
Considering that New England likes its rotational defensive backs to play multiple roles, Wade should fit in well with a secondary that also features the following players:
Justin Bethel: While Bethel missed the last two practices, he is a lock to make the Patriots’ roster after re-signing on a three-year contract earlier this offseason. He is a core special teamer and the potential heir to Matthew Slater.
Joshuah Bledsoe (NFI): New England’s sixth-round rookie remains on the non-football injury list. It would not be a surprise if the team kept him there, changing his status from “active” to “reserve” during roster cutdown day.
Myles Bryant: Bryant had a promising rookie season, showing the ability to play both cornerback and safety. Wade’s arrival could impact his chances of making the roster.
Adrian Colbert: Even though he registered an interception against the Philadelphia Eagles last week, Colbert appears to be a long-shot to make the roster at this point in time. Wade’s arrival certainly does not improve his chances.
Cody Davis: Like Justin Bethel, Davis also falls into the roster lock category due to his abilities on special team. The personal protector on punt teams also was re-signed in free agency earlier this year.
Kyle Dugger: Dugger may have had some ups and downs over the course of training camp, but he projects to play a big role in New England’s secondary in 2021 and beyond. The former second-round selection is a starter-caliber member of the Patriots’ defensive backfield.
Stephon Gilmore (PUP): The former NFL Defensive Player of the Year is still on the physically unable to perform list, and in the middle of an apparent contract dispute. He is a player to watch considering that the start of the regular season is only two weeks away.
J.C. Jackson: Entering a contract season, Jackson will again start as a perimeter cornerback for the Patriots. As long as Stephon Gilmore remains on PUP, Jackson is the team’s CB1 and one of the better corners in football.
Michael Jackson Sr: For a while, Jackson appeared to be well on his way to make the team. However, the 24-year-old has been quiet recently.
Jonathan Jones: Jones left Thursday’s joint practice with the New York Giants with an apparent left leg injury. The severity of the ailment is not yet known, but it might have been a catalyst in the Patriots going after Wade.
Devin McCourty: While his future beyond the 2021 season is uncertain, McCourty will again serve as a starter in New England’s secondary this year. Together with linebacker Dont’a Hightower, he is one of the cornerstones of the team’s entire defense and will remain so until he decides to announce his retirement.
Jalen Mills: The Patriots signed Mills to a four-year free agency deal in spring, making him a lock to make the roster. While the former Eagle served as a starter opposite J.C. Jackson in practice, he appears to be better suited to align on the interior either as a slot cornerback or safety.
Adrian Phillips: Phillips has played some impressive football this summer, and will be a starter for the Patriots this season. The 29-year-old has seen considerable action against tight ends, and will therefore continue to help fill the role previously held by Patrick Chung.
D’Angelo Ross: Ross is another player whose chances of making the team take a hit due to the Wade acquisition. The third-year man had an uneventful summer so far, which is not necessarily an encouraging sign for his outlook.
Dee Virgin: While Virgin has not stood out as a cornerback, his usage on special teams might help him make the team: he was used as the top gunner opposite Matthew Slater with Justin Bethel out. That said, the odds are against him.
Joejuan Williams: Over the last two weeks, the Patriots’ former second-round draft pick has seen plenty of action as an outside cornerback. While Williams did have his moments, it appears as if the team is not entirely confident having him as a third outside cornerback behind Stephon Gilmore and J.C. Jackson.
While Wade can play on the perimeter and has the size to effectively do so — 6-foot-1, 196 pounds — it would not be a surprise if the Patriots saw him as another hybrid player in the mold of Myles Bryant and, to a lesser degree, Joejuan Williams.
New England has 10 rookies on its roster
With Wade added, the Patriots now have a total of 10 rookie players on their roster. Nine — including Wade — were drafted, while one was signed as a free agent after the draft:
- QB Mac Jones (1-15)
- DT Christian Barmore (2-38)
- LB Ronnie Perkins (3-96)
- RB Rhamondre Stevenson (4-120)
- DB Shaun Wade (5-160)
- LB Cameron McGrone (5-177)*
- DB Joshuah Bledsoe (6-188)*
- OL William Sherman (6-196)
- WR Tre Nixon (7-242)
- K Quinn Nordin (UDFA)
*currently on the non-football injury list
The first four players on this list are locks to be on the Patriots’ 53-man roster this season, while Wade’s chances also appear to be good. The others have to fight for their spot on the team, while two of them — Cameron McGrone and Joshuah Bledsoe — project to sit out at least parts of the season on NFI.
The Patriots are back to seven picks in the 2022 draft
The Patriots are sending two draft picks to the Ravens in order to bring Wade on board. Baltimore will receive both a 2022 seventh-round pick and a 2023 fifth-round selection out of the trade, which in turn reduces the number of New England’s selections next year again.
Including the Sony Michel and Shaun Wade trades, the Patriots now have the following capital to work with next spring:
- Round 1
- Round 2
- Round 3
- Round 4
- Round 6
- Round 6 (via Los Angeles as part of the Sony Michel trade)
- Round 7 (via Houston or Las Vegas as part of the Trent Brown or Ryan Izzo trade)
The Patriots have seven selections in hand, including the one that was acquired through the Sony Michel trade. As for the other two trades mentioned above — the ones involving offensive tackle Trent Brown and tight end Ryan Izzo — one of the seventh-rounders gained through them is now apparently headed to Baltimore.
New England has traded its originally seventh-rounder to the Miami Dolphins last year in exchange for wide receiver Isaiah Ford. They also sent their fifth-round selection to the Las Vegas Raiders for Trent Brown.
Wade’s contract is now on the Patriots’ books
With the Patriots acquiring Wade, they are also picking up his rookie contract. However, as is the case with every other trade, his signing bonus proration — worth a total of $317,564 — stays with his old club. That means that there are no guarantees left in his pact and that his base salaries are also his cap numbers for each of the four seasons:
- 2021: $660,000
- 2022: $825,000
- 2023: $940,000
- 2024: $1.055 million
Right now, Wade is not counting against the Patriots’ books: his $660,000 salary does not qualify for Top-51 status. If he makes the 53-man roster, however, he will be counted versus the team’s cap.