Christian Wade has taken over the NFL highlight reels in his first two games playing professional football. The Buffalo Bills were assigned Wade as part of the NFL’s International Pathway Program, and with that come some roster limitations. With the rumors flying around and his strong play, we felt the need to clarify.
Wade scored a 65-yard touchdown on his first NFL carry in Week 1 of the preseason against the Indianapolis Colts. The second time he touched the ball was the following week against the Carolina Panthers, where he took a Tyree Jackson swing pass 48 yards to the goal line.
Needless to say, folks were pumped. So much so that they suggested Wade might be on the 53-man roster.
Let’s set aside the subjective for now and discuss the actual roster limitations of the International Pathway Program. Wade left Wasps RFC in October of 2018 in preparation for the move to the NFL. As a member of the program, Buffalo gets an extra spot for Wade on their offseason roster. They also receive an extra spot on the practice squad during the season for Wade, but once he’s on the practice squad he can’t be promoted to the active roster.
Wade CAN make the initial 53-man roster outright according to the Buffalo Bills’ communications department. If he is released by the Bills during their roster cutdown, he can be claimed by another team and placed on their 53-man roster.
If he passes through waivers, Buffalo gets that extra spot on their practice squad where he will stay all season. They can use that 11th spot for free but he can’t be called up to the active roster. They can also choose to place him on the regular practice squad, costing them one of their ten spots. If he’s on the 10-man roster, he can be signed by other teams or the Bills to the active roster.
What’s more unclear is if he makes an NFL team’s 53-man roster, what would happen if he is released during the season. He’d likely find a home on a practice squad somewhere but no one seems to know if he would still be eligible for the Bills to add to their practice squad at the later point with the exemption.
Now that we have the particulars out of the way, we can handle the subjective.
Christian Wade is not going to make the Buffalo Bills roster. Point blank. Period.
Wade is a gifted athlete with excellent vision, unreal balance, and blazing speed. He’s shown all of that repeatedly. What he’s also shown is that he is still adjusting to the game of football.
On his 65-yard run, he didn’t take the handoff correctly. According to Wade, he had been teased by his teammates repeatedly on that play for bouncing it outside instead of cutting it where he eventually would take it for the score. On his long catch and run, if he had followed his blockers to the corner of the end zone, he would have scored without question. Wade himself compared his football knowledge to that of a 4-year-old earlier this month.
He has a particular skill set that he can show off on the field, but between the ears there is an awful lot of work to do for him to make the transition from rugby to football. He doesn’t know how to set up blocks because in rugby, blocking is illegal. He doesn’t know how to block for the same reason. Running routes and reading defenses is foreign to him.
The best case for Wade is he learns enough on the practice squad during the 2019 season to make a push for a roster spot in 2020 at 29 years of age.
Let’s keep it a feel-good story, huh? Don’t put undue expectations on the man.
Editor’s note: This article has been updated to reflect new information regarding Wade’s ability to be placed on a 10-man practice squad. 8/19/19 at 11:00 AM Eastern.