football-player football-score football-helmet football-ball Accuracy Arm-Strength Balance Ball-Security Ball-Skills Big-Play-Ability Block-Deconstruction Competitive-Toughness Core-Functional-Strength Decision-Making Discipline Durability Effort-Motor Elusivness Explosiveness Football-IQ Footwork Functional-Athleticism Hand-Counters Hand-Power Hand-Technique Hands Lateral-Mobility Leadership Length Mechanics Mobility Pass-Coverage-Ability Pass-Protection Pass-Sets Passing-Down-Skills Pocket-Manipulation Poise Power-at-POA Progressions RAC-Ability Range Release-Package Release Route-Running Run-Defending Separation Special-Teams-Ability-1 Versatility Vision Zone-Coverage-Skills Anchor-Ability Contact-Balance Man-Coverage-Skills Tackling Lifted Logic Web Design in Kansas City clock location phone email play chevron-down chevron-left chevron-right chevron-up facebook tiktok checkbox checkbox-checked radio radio-selected instagram google plus pinterest twitter youtube send linkedin search arrow-circle bell left-arrow right-arrow tdn-mark filled-play-circle yellow-arrow-circle dark-arrow-circle star cloudy snowy rainy sunny plus minus triangle-down link close drag minus-circle plus-circle pencil premium trash lock simple-trash simple-pencil eye cart
Malik Cunningham Patriots

Can Malik Cunningham Make Patriots 53-Man Roster?

  • Justin Melo
  • May 15, 2023
  • Share

New England Patriots rookie quarterback Malik Cunningham has a terrific opportunity to make their 53-man roster, according to ESPN’s Mike Reiss. Cunningham joined the Patriots as an undrafted free agent at the conclusion of the 2023 NFL Draft and has a clear pathway to the roster.

Cunningham is currently the fourth quarterback on New England’s unofficial depth chart. Mac Jones and Bailey Zappe are the clear No. 1 and 2 quarterbacks. Veteran journeyman Trace McSorley is also on the roster. It shouldn’t take Cunningham long to leap McSorley as New England’s third signal-caller, which is a position that has mattered more to the Patriots than their competitors in recent years.

While most NFL franchises prefer to keep two quarterbacks on the initial 53-man roster, Bill Belichick has carried three quarterbacks on his opening-day team each of the past four seasons. The Patriots have also had an undrafted free agent make their Week 1 roster for 19 consecutive seasons, which is tied with the Denver Broncos for the longest streak in the NFL. Cunningham’s chances are solid.

Cunningham enjoyed a historically impressive collegiate career at Louisville, where he started 47 games. Cunningham threw for 9,664 yards, 70 touchdowns, and 29 interceptions. A dual-threat playmaker, Cunningham dazzled as an electric runner by adding an additional 3,184 yards and 50 touchdowns to his offensive totals. Cunningham is a weapon in the open field with game-breaking speed, vision, and the toughness necessary to break tackles.

Cunningham lacks the size (5-foot-11, 192 pounds) and traditional quarterback traits to thrive as a signal-caller at the NFL level. There are alternative methods for the Patriots to get Cunningham on the field though. How the New Orleans Saints have utilized Taysom Hill provides a noteworthy example.

The Patriots had the 32nd-ranked red zone offense last season. It was a cluttered mess under the unprepared tandem of Matt Patricia and Joe Judge. The Patriots scored just 31 offensive touchdowns in 17 regular-season contests. New offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien has been hired to add some sizzle back into the offense. Sizzle that Cunningham could help provide.

O’Brien is a creative play-caller that could design manufactured touches for Cunningham, particularly in the red area. The Patriots don’t have a ton of weapons that thrive in defeating press-man coverage. Windows get smaller in the red zone. A creative playmaker like Cunningham could serve as an equalizer for an offense that appeared to be overmatched last season.

It’s also worth acknowledging that Cunningham’s deal with the Patriots included $200,000 in guaranteed money. It’s late-round draft pick money. It captures how high the Patriots are on Cunningham’s abilities. They opened up their checkbook to ensure his signature.

Former Patriots wide receiver Deion Branch serves as director of player development at Louisville. Belichick likely consulted with Branch before signing Cunningham to a professional contract. Branch likely would have offered an impressive review of Cunnigham as a player and person.

The Patriots’ near-two-decade steak of rostering a minimum of one undrafted free agent proves Belichick has fostered an equal-opportunity environment. Cunningham will receive the reps necessary to prove he belongs on the Patriots roster. Don’t be shocked if Malik Cunningham is making plays against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 1.

Written By

Justin Melo