The New England Patriots move quickly. On Thursday morning, rumors leaked that the Baltimore Ravens were shopping rookie cornerback Shaun Wade, per The Athletics's Jeff Zrebiec. The Ravens have a logjam at the cornerback position and have some figuring out to do in the coming days, as they can’t keep all of them on their 53-man roster. It’s now being reported that the Patriots are close to acquiring Wade in a trade, per Ian Rapoport.
It’s rare to see a rookie so quickly make his way to the trade block, but Baltimore’s situation is unique. They weren’t exactly tied down to Wade, who they selected with the 160th overall selection during the 2021 NFL Draft.
It’s no surprise to see that Wade attracted potential suitors so quickly. He offers great versatility as a player that can play both inside and outside. He’s a rookie with some exciting raw traits that can be molded by Bill Belichick and Co. Before a disappointing 2020 campaign at Ohio State, Wade was seen as a potential first-round pick. That ceiling still exists for Wade, and a team like the Patriots that understands how to get the most out of their talent ultimately makes a lot of sense here. This move feels like the Patriots simply being interested in strengthening a strength and preparing for the not-so-distant future. It’s not like they needed to acquire a cornerback because it represents a position of weakness for them right now. It isn’t.
Stephon Gilmore is still the man. The 30-year-old cornerback isn’t getting younger, but is still one of the most intelligent and impressive cornerbacks in the game. Behind him, the likes of J.C. Jackson, Jonathan Jones, and Jalen Mills aren’t to be slept on and round out a quality top four. Jackson should hold down the starting job opposite Gilmore on the outside after finishing just one interception behind Xavien Howard (10) for the league lead with nine takeaways a year ago, and Jones should continue to be one of the best nickel corners in all of football. The addition of Mills didn’t receive the warmest welcome by critics, but Mills is a versatile piece that can wear multiple hats for you as a reserve defensive back. Behind them, players such as JoeJuan Williams and Myles Bryant will continue to fight for the final roster spots.
The immediate future at corner is in excellent shape, but the future of the position is less clear for the Patriots—that’s when this trade starts to come into focus. Both outside starters in Gilmore and Jackson are set to hit free agency in 2022, with Jackson especially being due for a hefty raise in pay. In the slot, Jones has two years remaining on a deal that, barring an extension, will expire in 2023.
This trade for Wade may not pay dividends in 2021, but it’s not hard to envision a scenario where it looks like a smart deal in a year or two.
Check out Shaun Wade’s full scouting report here.
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