Updated: Jun 28
Why the Patriot’s latest UDFA signing could potentially be in the mix for a large variety of roles this season.
Malik Cunningham, the 15th-ranked QB prospect out of this year’s draft who went undrafted, was signed by the New England Patriots last week on a contract that includes $200,000 in guarantees.
At first, it seems like a depth-signing at QB for a team who at one point last year saw both of their top QBs succumb to injury. But if you start peeling the layers away, it becomes clear that the Patriots likely have other uses in mind for Cunningham.
When being recruited in High School, his best offers came from teams that wanted him to convert to WR or DB. He only had a few recruiting offers from teams that actually wanted him to play QB, which is what he ended up pursuing when he committed to Louisville.
Obviously given the fact he’s even in consideration for being a part of an NFL roster, he was pretty good in his collegiate career. He followed in Lamar Jackson’s footsteps and ended up breaking Lamar’s record for most touchdowns in school history (120). He was a top-10 ranked dual-threat QB prospect and ranked 3rd in athleticism out of the QBs in this year’s draft.
Unfortunately, along with his impressive numbers, there were also some clear problems concerning his QB play. After one of his first games in a Louisville uniform, he admitted he didn’t know how to slide. Something that seems incredibly problematic for a running QB. Throughout his career at Louisville, he managed to grow as a QB but there were signs that perhaps QB wasn’t his destined position if he were to ever turn pro.
Patriots New Secret Weapon?
While researching Malik Cunningham, my favorite quote I found was this one from an unnamed NFC scout from a few months before this year’s draft:
“I just don’t think he’s a very good quarterback, just from a touch, timing, accuracy [standpoint], There’s times he can get streaky in games and [complete] six or eight in a row, and there’s times there’s six or eight (passes) in row you’re just like, literally, ‘What the f— are you doing?’ It’s just been such a rollercoaster with him.”
That likely says everything we need to know about Cunningham’s actual prospect of becoming an NFL-level QB. If he is promoted to the 53-man roster, though he could potentially play snaps at QB, chances are more likely he would be used in a utility-type role similar to Taysom Hill of the New Orleans Saints.
You know Belichick watches film 12 hours a day like he’s binging Game Of Thrones. It’s pretty likely he’s seen the success that New Orleans has experienced with Hill and started scheming up something similar for his own team.
This other quote I found from an unnamed AFC quarterbacks coach, really speaks volumes to the unlikelihood that Belichick simply drafted Cunningham as a QB:
“He’s a quarterback for a very specific offense, alluding to Lamar Jackson’s NFL journey. It’s a cheap and easy comparison because he’s from Louisville and he’s a good athlete, but it’s real: He would have to be in a Baltimore-style (offense) that really highlights the quarterback run game and doesn’t ask him to do much as a pocket passer. He can do some stuff throwing it. He’s just inconsistent.”
Chances are Belichick’s got something up his sleeve with this signing. It will certainly be exciting to see what that may be.
… After all, Bill has also had success before turning a low-tier QB recruit into a high-tier WR. Does the name Julian Edelman ring any bells here?
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