Will Malik Cunningham make the Patriots’ 53-man roster? Here’s what Bill Belichick said.

Patriots

“Malik is a really interesting player,” Belichick said.

Malik Cunningham AP Photo/Steven Senne
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Malik Cunningham quickly made an impression during his time with the Patriots, scoring on a dazzling 9-yard touchdown run in New England’s first preseason game.

The undrafted free-agent showed flashes of potential as a mobile quarterback, but has mostly been working as a receiver and special teamer during camp.

One of the biggest questions looming as the Patriots continue to make roster cuts through Tuesday afternoon is whether there’s a spot for Cunningham on the roster.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick was asked about it Monday during an appearance on WEEI’s The Greg Hill Show.

“Malik is a really interesting player,” Belichick said. “The kid never played receiver before or returned kicks and he’s done both, he’s returned kickoffs and played receiver as far as playing quarterback. We’ll see how it goes. He’s certainly got some things on his resume, and so do other players so we’ll see how it all plays out.”

The Patriots have had an undrafted free-agent make the 53-man roster every year since 2004. However, there are no guarantees they’ll add one this year.

The 6-foot-1, 198-pound athlete had one catch on nine targets during the preseason. He’d clearly be more of a developmental prospect at receiver, as he’s still learning the fundamentals of the position. But, he’s got the kind of athleticism that led JuJu Smith-Schuster to say that Cunningham is electric with the football in his hands.

The Patriots receiver room is suddenly pretty crowded with Smith-Schuster, DeVante Parker, Kendrick Bourne, and rookie Demario Douglas having favorable chances at roster spots. Rookie receiver Kayshon Boutte could wind up in the mix as well, as could speedy receiver Tyquan Thornton.

At quarterback, it appears that Mac Jones will be the starter and Bailey Zappe will be the backup. It’s conceivable that the Patriots could carry three quarterbacks, and Cunningham has shown both better production and a higher ceiling than Trace McSorely during the preseason.

Still, Cunningham’s passing stats weren’t anything to write home about. He finished 3-of-6 for 19 yards during the preseason.

The risk of attempting to keep Cunningham on the practice squad is that another team could sign him. Perhaps Belichick will take his chances and go that route anyways. Or maybe that threat will be enough of a deterrent for Belichick to consider a 53-man roster spot for Cunningham.

Either way, roster cuts are coming and it remains to be seen whether Cunningham will be one of them.


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