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Patriots Roster Breakdown: Don’t Sleep on Shaun Wade

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New England Patriots cornerback Shaun Wade (26) celebrates an incomplete pass while taking on the Indianapolis Colts during an NFL football game at Deutsche Bank Park Stadium in Frankfurt, Germany, Sunday, Nov. 12, 2023. The Colts defeated the Patriots 10-6. (AP Photo/Doug Benc)

There are expected to be a lot of changes in the New England Patriots locker room before the 2024 season gets underway. The coaching staff has already seen significant turnover, most notably with Jerod Mayo replacing Bill Belichick as head coach. But what will the New England roster look like in the fall? Some of that will be determined by players not currently on the team. The NFL Draft and free agency will both bring new faces to Foxboro. But what about the players from 2023? Patriots Football Now will break down all potential 2024 roster players in “Patriots Roster Breakdown” before Week 1 arrives in September.

Today’s Patriots Roster Breakdown featured player: Shaun Wade.

Shaun Wade

The Baltimore Ravens selected Shaun Wade in the fifth round (No. 160 overall) of the 2021 NFL Draft. However, when it appeared Wade may not make the Ravens roster out of camp, Baltimore traded him to New England for future fifth and seventh-round picks. As a result, Wade has played his entire NFL career with the Patriots.

Wade played college football for the Ohio State Buckeyes. He went to Columbus as a Top 20 recruit nationally, and the No. 2 cornerback in the Class of 2017 behind only fellow Buckeye Jeff Okudah. In 2020, Wade was named a consensus All-American and the Big Ten Defensive Back of the Year.

Shaun Wade appeared in only three games each of his first two NFL seasons. He played a total of 39 snaps and registered three tackles. Wade became an afterthought heading into last season. He found himself buried on the depth chart behind rookie Christian Gonzalez, Jonathan Jones, Jack Jones, Marcus Jones, and Myles Bryant. But after several injuries and other issues, Wade found himself getting plenty of playing time in 2023.

Wade played in 14 games for the Patriots. He registered career highs across the board. He played 348 defensive snaps and recorded 23 tackles (21 solo) including two tackles for a loss. Of 129 NFL cornerbacks to play at least 300 snaps last season, Wade’s Pro Football Focus grade of 62.2 ranked No. 76.

Contract Status

Shaun Wade is entering the final year of his rookie contract with the Patriots. He will be an unrestricted free agent following the 2024 NFL season.

Cornerback Group

The New England Patriots have seven cornerbacks under contract for 2024. The group includes Christian Gonzalez, Jonathan Jones, Shaun Wade, Marco Wilson, Marcus Jones, Alex Austin, and Isaiah Bolden.

Gonzalez, Marcus Jones, and Bolden are all returning from season-ending injuries in 2024. Jonathan Jones is a steady veteran. Wilson was claimed off waivers in December and will be a player to watch in training camp. Austin surpassed expectations after getting promoted from the practice squad.

The Patriots may bring in another veteran cornerback. Familiar faces Stephon Gilmore and J.C. Jackson are among the available players in free agency. It would not be surprising to see them grab a corner in the NFL Draft. With injuries depleting this unit in 2023, depth will be a focal point heading into camp.

Outlook for Shaun Wade

Shaun Wade is entering his fourth season with the New England Patriots. But in many wades, Wade was like a rookie in 2023. It was the first time he appeared in more than three games in a season and received substantial playing time. Wade had growing pains at times but was largely very solid. He was graded out by PFF as an average NFL rotational corner last season, a grade that is consistent with what was seen by this scribe.

However, there is reason to believe that with the added experience, Wade can continue to improve. Wade will only be 25 in Week 1. Nobody should expect him to be a finished product at this point. The additional playing time in 2023 seemed to help Wade regain some of the confidence he played with at Ohio State. There is no reason to believe that won’t carry over into the 2024 season.

It will be important for Shaun Wade to impress in training camp. There are jobs up for grabs at the cornerback position and he can be right in the thick of the competition. Making a positive impression with work ethic and attitude will also be important, as head coach Jerod Mayo looks to avoid some of the headaches they faced in the form of Jack Jones a year ago. But there is no reason to believe that Wade cannot build on last season’s performance and become a contributor, even on a healthy roster.

Award-winning blogger, Dan's work has also been featured on Fox Sports, Boston Metro, Barstool Sports, MLB.com, and many other outlets.