Why Shaun Wade Was Dealt to the Patriots

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On August 26, the Baltimore Ravens shipped fifth-round draft pick, Shaun Wade, to the New England Patriots. In return, New England sent a future seventh-round pick and a future fifth-round pick to Baltimore. On the surface, it appears that Baltimore was giving up on one of their Day 3 selections within four months of drafting him. Underneath the surface, Baltimore has been working through an array of roster issues that forced its hand in dealing Wade.

Trading picks as high as fifth-rounders is generally rare. Wade had even played fairly well in the preseason, earning one of the highest PFF grades among all players (not just rookies). However, Baltimore has dealt with several injuries across the offensive side of the ball, forcing much of the potential 53-man roster to be dedicated to positions other than Wade and cornerbacks. Offensive injuries coupled with Baltimore’s inordinate amount of cornerback depth sent Wade packing.

As it turns out, Baltimore was forced into moving him because of three factors:

Offensive Injuries

As of right now, the Ravens have three fully healthy wide receivers (Devin Duvernay, Tylan Wallace, and James Proche). The other four (Miles Boykin, Sammy Watkins, Marquise Brown, and Rashod Bateman) are injured, and even a depth piece in Deon Cain is injured. Baltimore is unsure if those five receivers will be ready for Week 1.

The same thing can be said for Trace McSorley, Patrick Ricard, Nick Boyle, and Ben Cleveland. Out of these players, McSorley is the only one who is a backup. Ricard and Boyle (in normal circumstances) would be two of the four fullbacks/tight end types, but now they are two extra bodies that may not play Week 1. Baltimore has to compensate by keeping players such as Eric Tomlinson and Josh Oliver in the tight end room. Rookie Ben Mason is also even more likely to make the 53-man roster if Ricard is not fully healthy. For Cleveland, his injury necessitates that Baltimore keeps as much interior offensive line depth as humanly possible.

Secondary Depth

BALTIMORE, MD – AUGUST 14: DeShon Elliott #32 of the Baltimore Ravens celebrates with teammates after recovering a fumble against the New Orleans Saints during the first half of a preseason game at M&T Bank Stadium on August 14, 2021, in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)

The Ravens have one of the deepest secondaries in the NFL. Led by former All-Pros in Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters, Baltimore has six competent defensive backs. Jimmy Smith and Tavon Young are injury risks, but they are the No.3 and slot options respectively. In the safety room, DeShon Elliott and Chuck Clark are integral pieces that can be on the field at any point. Anthony Averett is a player that the organization is high on. Averett has developed over his career with the Ravens, and he could also be traded before the start of the season. Baltimore also drafted Brandon Stephens higher than Wade. Stephens brings the list to eight players ahead of Wade in the secondary room. Anthony Levine may not be a better player than Wade, but the veteran is a near-lock to make the roster. He is a solid special teamer, and he is one of the locker room leaders.

Even in the slot room, Young and Humphrey would be the first two options. It’s hard to justify keeping 10 defensive backs with injuries at other positions. This even glosses over a bevy of defensive backs who have shined in camp and preseason including Ar’Darius Washington (a priority undrafted free agent) and Geno Stone (2020 draft pick). There are too many cooks in the kitchen in Baltimore.

Wade is too good for the practice squad

For the Ravens to put Wade on the practice squad, he’d have to clear waivers. As evidenced by this trade, there is no chance he would clear waivers. There’s an argument to just keep Wade, but Baltimore has picked up a slew of short-term injuries. If they were long-term, Baltimore could put the player on injured reserve and keep a roster spot. However, the Ravens have been fortunate enough to only have one season-ending injury (L.J. Fort), so they must make space for players whom they know will be available for Week 1. Wade is a number casualty more than anything.

Win-Win Trade:

After Wade was originally viewed as a first-round pick heading into the 2021 draft, he had an abysmal season at Ohio State. For the Patriots, Wade is a high-upside play that they spend minimal draft capital on. The Ravens were able to secure some return on investment by picking up a pair of late picks. While neither pick is likely to amount to much, the Ravens were at least able to get some compensation for picking Wade. Had they put him on the practice squad, he likely would have been poached by a different organization.

BALTIMORE, MD – JULY 31: Shaun Wade #29 of the Baltimore Ravens looks on during training camp at M&T Bank Stadium on July 31, 2021, in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)

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Ryan Potts is an avid football and baseball fan. He covers the NFL and Major League Baseball, focusing on the Baltimore Ravens and Atlanta Braves.