New England Patriots: The case for QB Cunningham to make the 53-man roster

Why Malik Cunningham should make the Patriots team
Louisville v Kentucky
Louisville v Kentucky / Andy Lyons/GettyImages

Forget the practice squad, Malik Cunningham should be a part of the New England Patriots' 53-man roster. At the risk of jinxing that possibility, let's make the case for why the precocious former Louisville flash absolutely has to be on the New England Patriots' 53-man roster and frankly, on every gameday roster, as well.

There are numerous reasons why Cunningham's inclusion on the Patriots' roster makes perfect sense. Not even one of the most poignant of these reasons is that the New England Patriots literally broke the bank, relatively speaking, when they signed Cunningham to the largest guaranteed undrafted free-agent contract in the team's history. Yet, that factor is one of the least important in the rationale for his being on the roster.

Let's take a look at some of these reasons and see if they stack up and present a compelling argument as to why Cunningham's inclusion when the team breaks camp is a great idea. The hope here is that the team's clear indication of their affinity for the player is not just a whim but indicative of a clear intent to utilize his terrific talents to the utmost.

Malik Cunningham, another undrafted New England Patriots' diamond in the rough

The New England Patriots have been taken to task often in this space for their lack of personnel acumen. Their drafting as pointed out by owner Robert Kraft has been less than stellar in many years, not only in who they select but often in the positions they neglect to fill. Also, in free agency, absent the occasional star signing like Matt Judon, their record is less than optimum and leaves lots to be desired.

That notwithstanding, the team's record in signing undrafted free agents who shine is unexpectedly superb. Names like Malcolm Butler, J.C. Jackson, David Andrews, Jonathan Jones, and others have been top contributors and didn't even cost a draft pick. That's a major achievement that unfortunately isn't often replicated in the other two major team-building aspects, the draft, and free agency

Cunningham could very well be the next in that long line of success stories in the undrafted agency. So why should Cunningham be on the team's roster? First, he's is a dual-threat quarterback who can break long gains with his feet and with his arm. He's a solid passer, but even better when he runs the ball a la Lamar Jackson.

Having him on the roster and every game-day roster as well ensures that opposing defensive coordinators have to game-plan for him. This adds additional pressure to those defenses, always a good development.

Cunningham makes up for lots of New England Patriots' shortcomings

In addition, the New England Patriots' deficiencies in their offensive line, at least at the offensive tackle position, will put immobile quarterbacks like Mac Jones or Bailey Zappe at a distinct disadvantage. Cunningham can overcome these shortcomings by utilizing his speed and elusiveness in programmed and/or impromptu runs. He also can double as a wide receiver, saving a game-day roster spot for another position, always a nice option for the coaches.

The team can also utilize Jackson as a change-of-pace option in-game to throw defenses off their game. In addition, he's likely the team's best option in third-and-long situations since he can churn up huge yardage at any time with his scrambling ability. Josh McDaniels had little idea how to utilize a dual-threat quarterback with Cam Newton in 2020. Yet, new Offensive Coordinator Bill O'Brien will likely be much more able to develop and incorporate Cunningham into a well-rounded, multi-faceted attack.

Finally, Cunningham should get every opportunity to win the first-team quarterback role in 2023 by getting lots of minutes in pre-season games. The quarterback position should be an open competition among the viable options. Why not? An extra added bonus is that Cunningham is and will be the most exciting player on the team along with the versatile Marcus Jones.

Those are several reasons why Malik Cunningham should be a lock to earn a spot, not only in the New England Patriots' post-camp 53-man roster but also in every game-day roster, as well. The team was astute enough to sign Jackson almost instantaneously to that huge deal when he became available. Hopefully, they'll be discerning enough to stick with their instincts and utilize his great talents in an ongoing manner. They won't regret it.