Things happen quickly in the NFL, something that rookie cornerback Shaun Wade is quickly learning. Less than two weeks ago, Wade sealed the Ravens' 18th consecutive preseason win with his fourth quarter interception of Saints rookie quarterback Ian Book. On Thursday, Wade was reportedly traded from Baltimore to the Patriots in exchange for a 2022 seventh-round pick and a 2023 fifth-round pick from New England.
In Wade, the Patriots are getting a 22-year-old defensive back who a year ago was being projected as a first-round pick. And while his transition from the slot to the outside during his final season at Ohio State was anything but seamless, Wade was still a consensus All-American during his final season with the Buckeyes. Wade also became the first Ohio State player to win the Tatum-Woodson Big Ten Defensive Back of the Year award. Wade's success in Columbus, Ohio led to him being the 160th overall pick (Round 5) in the 2021 draft. In New England, he adds depth to a Patriots' defensive backfield that is currently without Stephon Gilmore, who is on the team's physically unable to perform list with a quad injury.
With the ink likely still drying on this trade agreement, here's a look at our grade of the NFL's most recent trade, which took place just one day before the start of the NFL's third and final week of the preseason.
The reported trade comes a day after Bill Belichick dealt running back Sony Michel to the Rams -- a trade that had to be slightly altered due to illegal terms in the original agreement. The Michel deal now has the Pats getting a 2023 fourth-rounder to go along with the 2022 sixth-rounder that was already included in the package. Essentially, the Patriots used draft capital gained from their trade with Los Angeles and flipped it into acquiring Wade, although those picks don't match up exactly. This is another example of Belichick's savviness as a general manager.
Speaking of Belichick, the seven-time Super Bowl champion head coach has a long track record of success as it relates to working with defensive backs. As the Giants' defensive coordinator, Belichick's defensive backs rocked Andre Reed and the rest of the Bills' receiving corps during New York's 20-19 upset win in Super Bowl XXV. As the Patriots' defensive backs coach six years later, Belichick's unit played an integral role in New England reaching Super Bowl XXXI. More recently, Belichick has had success working with Super Bowl XLIX hero Malcolm Butler and Gilmore, the 2019 Defensive Player of the Year. Wade may not pan out like those players, and the Patriots may have been better served using draft stock on a different player/situation. But given Thursday's actions, the Patriots surely feel like this low-risk, high reward situation was worth pursuing.
Wade was not projected to make the Ravens' 53-man roster after being passed on the depth chart by Chris Westry. Given Wade's profile, Baltimore clearly didn't expect him to clear waivers once released. So it was that Baltimore decided to trade Wade while getting something in return. In that sense, the trade was a win for the Ravens and coach John Harbaugh, who recently lauded his young group of cornerbacks rounding out his depth chart. Along with Westry, fellow cornerbacks Nigel Warrior and rookie Brandon Stephens have also had impressive training camps.
That being said, it's not unreasonable to question the Ravens giving up on a player of Wade's caliber. Through two preseason games, Wade had the second-highest grade versus single coverage among rookie defensive backs, according to Pro Football Focus. The positive is that the Ravens feel good enough about their cornerback situation to part ways with Wade, who was one of college football's best slot cornerbacks in 2019. The negatives include lost depth at the cornerback position along with the risk of watching Wade possibly having success on a Patriots team that Baltimore may very well face in future postseasons.
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