Not to be outshined by all the excitement of the NFL draft, the Patriots signed their first UDFA, quarterback Malik Cunningham, to the most lucrative deal the team has ever given to an undrafted player shortly after the draft ended.
It was the only quarterback the team signed over the weekend, which to some, was a bit of a surprise after a chaotic start to the offseason. The last few months have been filled with rumors and speculation regarding Bill Belichick’s stance on Mac Jones as the Patriots’ starting QB, making many believe the position would surely be a target at some point in the draft.
But the Patriots’ coach seemingly put the gossip to rest on Friday night when he finally addressed the elephant in the room and proclaimed his confidence in Jones as the team’s quarterback moving forward.
With that in mind, the signing of Cunningham becomes all the more interesting.
Although he’s unlikely to become the QB1 at some point, he brings a unique style to the roster that is currently missing from the team. As a more dual-threat player who can almost beat teams on the ground far more effortlessly than through the air, Cunningham’s athleticism and playmaking abilities can be an invaluable boost to the Patriots overall.
Seeing the contract he gave the quarterback, Belichick also feels that way. But he likely also appreciated Cunningham’s willingness to do what it takes to make the team, even if that meant switching positions.
Because he’s often compared to Lamar Jackson, mainly due to their similar play style but also for both attending Louisville, many scouts don’t believe he could succeed as a quarterback in the NFL. Despite that narrative being continuously proven false by other mobile quarterbacks in the league (i.e., Jackson, Jalen Hurts, Josh Allen, etc.), most suggested he be used elsewhere on a team to be utilized the most.
New #Patriots QB Malik Cunningham
2019: 72.0 adj comp%, 2543 total yds, 28 total TD
2020: 73.3 adj comp%, 3226 total yds, 27 total TD
2021: 70.7 adj comp%, 3972 total yds, 39 total TD
2022: 69.4 adj comp%, 2128 total yds, 20 total TD
total yds/TDs = pass + rush yds/TDs pic.twitter.com/QahWEK5Hv4
— FTB VIDS (@anotherFTBacct) April 29, 2023
Knowing this, Cunningham reportedly told teams he would be willing to test out other positions, like wide receiver if it would allow him to contribute and remain a part of the team. It will be interesting to see how Belichick will move him around offensively, especially since their most recent experience with an undersized, multidimensional quarterback (D’Eriq King) only lasted a few weeks last year.
Given his skillset and upside potential, hopefully, New England can determine the best way to implement Cunningham into the offense. His natural abilities are far too dynamic not to explore all the options, and fortunately, his contract suggests he will at least make it through training camp, giving Belichick more time to work with him.