The hyper-athletic quarterback the New England Patriots signed after the 2023 NFL Draft reportedly is open to playing a different role in the NFL.
Malik Cunningham, who succeeded Lamar Jackson at Louisville and started 47 games for the Cardinals, told teams during the pre-draft process that he’s willing to do whatever it takes to get on the field and help a team win, according to a report last month from NFL Media’s Tom Pelissero.
Cunningham posted modest passing stats in his final collegiate season (62.4% completion rate, 1,568 yards, eight touchdowns, five interceptions in 10 games) and is undersized for an NFL quarterback at just under 6 feet and 192 pounds. But he was a terrific rusher throughout his time at Louisville. He led all FBS QBs with 1,031 rushing yards in 2021 and racked up 32 rushing touchdowns over the last two seasons.
At the NFL Scouting Combine, Cunningham ran a 4.53-second 40-yard dash that ranked in the 95th percentile for QBs, per Mockdraftable, with a 10-yard split that ranked in the 97th percentile. Translation: He was one of the fastest signal-callers ever to run at the combine.
It’s unclear whether the Patriots view Cunningham as anything other than a quarterback, but they did try to turn another UDFA passer into a multipositional weapon last offseason. They signed Miami product D’Eriq King after the 2022 draft with plans to try him out at multiple different spots. That experiment quickly flopped, and the Patriots cut King two weeks later.
It is worth noting, though, that King is even shorter than Cunningham (5-9, 196) and played some wide receiver early in his college career. Cunningham only played quarterback for Louisville after Alabama tried to recruit him as a safety.
Regardless, the Patriots clearly see something in Cunningham as a player. Though they didn’t select him with any of their 12 draft picks, they gave him a hefty contract that reportedly includes $200,000 in guaranteed money. That’s an eye-popping amount for a UDFA and gives the 24-year-old a better chance than most of sticking on the 53-man roster.
Cunningham, who confirmed his signing on social media, joins Mac Jones, Bailey Zappe and recent arrival Trace McSorley in the Patriots’ highly scrutinized QB room.