In a stunning turn of events, the New England Patriots have reportedly released rookie Malik Cunningham just ten days after his high-profile contract signing. The undrafted Louisville talent had been heralded as a promising backup by head coach Bill Belichick, who had notably stated, "He can catch the ball, route running, finding zones — it's all come pretty naturally to him.
He's a smart kid who works hard." Despite this praise, Cunningham was curiously listed as inactive for the Patriots' recent upset victory over the Buffalo Bills. The release comes amid growing speculation that Cunningham might have been a serious contender for the starting quarterback position, potentially unseating Mac Jones, who had been experiencing a challenging season.
The shift puts Jones back in a somewhat favorable position, albeit with the shadow of Bailey Zappe and Will Grier looming large behind him.
Praise for Mac Jones
Von Miller, the Bills' linebacker, offered his perspective on Jones after their match-up, stating, "He's getting better, for sure.
It looks like the Patriots of the golden days. The issue has been turnovers early in games, and they didn’t have any today”. Additionally, New York Jets' quarterback Aaron Rodgers weighed in during a recent episode of The Pat McAfee Show, commenting, “Look at what’s going on in New England.
The narrative has been ‘Bill’s gonna be out,’ and ‘Mac is the problem.’ But Mac goes out there, completes 25 of 31 passes, leads a last-second drive, and suddenly it's like, ‘Mac was never the problem.’” This roller-coaster narrative revolving around the Patriots' quarterback situation leaves fans and analysts alike pondering the franchise's strategic direction.
One thing is clear: Mac Jones can breathe a sigh of relief, but with a high level of competition breathing down his neck, he will need to continue delivering strong performances to solidify his position. Given the recent developments, the looming game against the Las Vegas Raiders presents a crucial test for Jones and the Patriots' quarterback hierarchy.
The decision to release Cunningham is bound to have implications not just for the team but for the broader NFL landscape. Only time will tell if Belichick's unexpected move will pay off.