Patriots waive QB Malik Cunningham, release Trey Flowers


Malik Cunningham was Mac Jones’ backup during the Patriots’ Week 6 matchup against the Raiders.

Malik Cunningham #16 of the New England Patriots looks on prior to a game against the Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Stadium on October 15, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Malik Cunningham’s time on the Patriots’ active roster didn’t last very long. (Photo by Chris Unger/Getty Images)

Less than two weeks after the Patriots signed him to the active roster with a three-year contract, Malik Cunningham is hitting the waiver wire once again. 

The Patriots announced on Tuesday evening that they waived Cunningham, who will now need to pass through waivers if New England hopes to slot him back on the practice squad.

New England also released veteran Trey Flowers, who needed to be activated from the PUP list by Wednesday afternoon after being declared eligible to return earlier this month. If Flowers wasn’t activated by Wednesday, he would have been placed on the season-ending PUP list.

With Cunningham removed from the active roster, the Patriots have an open spot on their 53-man grouping.

Wide receiver Jalen Reagor could be a candidate to slot in to the active roster, with the 24-year-old wideout playing 42% of New England’s snaps during Sunday’s comeback win over the Bills. After Sunday’s victory, Reagor has hit the maximum number of standard elevations (three) from the practice squad.

It’s been a roller-coaster season for Cunningham, who spent the first five weeks of the 2023 season on the practice squad before joining New England’s active roster after inking that three-year deal.

Cunningham served as New England’s backup QB during the team’s road loss to the Raiders in Week 6. Despite the former Louisville QB’s unique skillset and the middling returns put forth by Mac Jones through most of the 2023 campaign, Cunningham was given little opportunity to supplant the Patriots’ QB1 during his stint on the active roster.

Bill Belichick and the Patriots opted to use Cunningham sparingly in that loss to the Raiders at Allegiant Stadium.

Cunningham ultimately played just six snaps in that game, lining up as a receiver four times. He finished with zero targets, zero carries, and zero pass attempts. The one play seemingly drawn up for Cunningham in the fourth quarter was a fake handoff to Ezekiel Elliott, but it resulted in a Raiders sack and a loss of five yards.

During Sunday’s win over Buffalo, Cunningham was added to the list of inactives for New England, with Bailey Zappe slotting back in as the Patriots’ backup QB behind Jones.

“He can do a lot of different things. I think that was a decision that Bill [Belichick] and Matt [Groh] made. I don’t make those decisions to bring him up,” Bill O’Brien said on Oct. 17 of Cunningham’s limited reps against the Raiders. “That’ll be week to week, depending on different things that go on. You could see him at different spots throughout the offense. He can play a lot of different places, so that will be week to week based on the game plan.

“We felt like that was the best way to go about it for the Raider game based on where we were, where we were from an injury standpoint and things like that. How do we get Malik Cunningham into the game? That was the best way to get him into the game.”

Cunningham may not have to pack his bags in Foxborough, at least not if he clears waivers as he did after the end of the preseason. Still, Tuesday’s news represents the latest twist in what has been an up-and-down first foray in the NFL ranks for the young QB.