In the NFL, a three-year deal rarely results in a player sticking around all three years. In the case of Malik Cunningham, it turned out to mean fewer than three weeks.
Cunningham signed with the Patriots as an undrafted free agent following the 2023 NFL Draft. He spent the previous six years at Louisville, where he took over as the starting quarterback in the program's post-Lamar Jackson era. He started for four seasons under head coach Scott Satterfield, finishing with 9,664 passing yards (fourth in school history) and 3,182 rushing yards (third).
With the Patriots, Cunningham transitioned into a hybrid quarterback/wide receiver role, aiding the team's shallow receiver corps, and began the season on the practice squad after a strong preseason. When he got the call-up to the active roster in Week 6, he received a three-year, $2.725 million extension rather than the usual practice squad elevation for a game.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick praised Cunningham's effort at the time of the contract, per ESPN:
"Malik has really worked hard and made a lot of improvement," Belichick said. "Anybody that keeps improving, eventually you'll probably get an opportunity to play."
Cunningham wound up seeing six snaps in Week 6 against the Las Vegas Raiders, two at quarterback and four at receiver. He was a healthy scratch the next week.
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, per ESPN.