In the NFL, a three-year contract rarely results in a player staying all three years. In Malik Cunningham’s case, it was less than three weeks.
The New England Patriots announced on Tuesday that they released Cunningham, a quarterback, just ten days after his three-year contract extension.
Cunningham signed with the Patriots as an undrafted free agent following the 2023 NFL Draft. He spent the last six years at Louisville, where he took over as the program’s starting quarterback in the post-Lamar Jackson era. He started four seasons under head coach Scott Satterfield and finished the season with 9,664 passing yards (fourth in school history) and 3,182 rushing yards (third).
With the Patriots, Cunningham moved into a hybrid quarterback/wide receiver role, bolstering the team’s shallow receiver corps and beginning the season on the practice squad after a strong preseason. When he was called up to the active roster in Week 6, he received a three-year extension worth $2.725 million instead of the usual practice squad raise for a game.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick praised Cunningham’s commitment at the time of signing the contract ESPN:
“Malik has worked really hard and made a lot of progress,” Belichick said. “Anyone who continues to improve will probably get a chance to play at some point.”
Cunningham saw six snaps in Week 6 against the Las Vegas Raiders, two at quarterback and four at receiver. The next week he was a healthy scratch.
The Patriots apparently deemed Cunningham expendable this week, with starter Mac Jones and backups Bailey Zappe and Will Grier all on the active roster and healthy. Cunningham is a strong candidate to return to the practice squad if he clears waivers, according to ESPN.