Its rare for an elite rugby talent to be available in the USA. Both the MLR and USA Rugby should be aggressive in keeping him around.
England capped wing Christian Wade is exploring his next move. Wade spent the last three years with the NFL’s Buffalo Bills as he attempted to flip codes. After being released, the former Wasps flyer has admitted that a return to rugby is on the table. Now 31 and 9 years removed from his only 15s cap, a return to the English national setup appears unlikely at best.
For MLR sides, Wade becomes an intriguing prospect. He offers name recognition to both American football fans and the global rugby community. Teams in the northeast could use his presence as a marketing tool. Rugby New York should have interest, but their ongoing field issues could dissuade a player of his caliber. The presence of former New England Patriots star Patrick Chung as a Free Jacks co-owner could be a connection to watch as well.
For teams outside the northeast, Wade still offers high caliber talent. With rumors of a Danny Cipriani signing swirling, Dallas offers an intriguing offer. Football sells in Dallas, and a backline with a pair of English capped players (three if they retain Chris Pennell) provides a marketing opportunity outside the United States. An expansion team would also be worth watching as they look to make a splash in their inaugural year.
While MLR sides lack the financial firepower of a Premiership team, the economics are changing. As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, the English salary cap will fall from 6.5 million British pounds (about $8.2 million) to 5 million pounds (roughly $6.3 million). The league will also reduce the number of designated players whose salary does not count against the cap from 2 to 1. For a player three years removed from rugby, a stint in the MLR could reassert Wade’s value while only requiring a six month commitment instead of signing a small deal with a Premiership side for a year. Finally, most Premiership sides have done their business for the next campaign already. There may not be a higher salary waiting for him England one way or another.