Long-term practice squad signing highlights series of Patriots’ Saturday roster moves
The New England Patriots’ roster will look a bit different this Sunday when they take on the Las Vegas Raiders. Ahead of the game on Saturday, the team made six roster moves.
Highlighting those six moves is the signing of practice squad quarterback/wide receiver Malik Cunningham to the active roster. The move was first reported by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
Not only was Cunningham signed to the active roster, the Patriots are giving him a three-year contract, according to Rapoport. He’s now signed through the 2025 season, and would be a restricted free agent in the spring of 2026.
Cunningham, a college quarterback at Louisville, signed with the Patriots this spring as a UDFA. Starting in the spring, Cunningham has mostly worked on converting to wide receiver. At the same time, he has seen some brief work at quarterback, highlighted by a drive in the preseason opener that resulted in a rushing touchdown. On that drive, Cunningham ran mainly option concepts to work the Patriots’ offense down the field.
Earlier this week, Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien called Cunningham “the most improved player on the practice squad” for the Patriots this year. On Friday, Bill Belichick was highly complimentary of him as well.
“Malik’s really worked hard and made a lot of improvement. He never really played in the kicking game at Louisville, so he’s started to show up there, never played receiver – didn’t look very good either, in the spring, but he’s really improved there,” Belichick shared. “He can catch the ball, but just route running and finding zones and things like that. But, it’s come pretty naturally to him. He plays a good amount of quarterback. He’s competent there. He’s a smart kid, works hard, and the opportunities he’s had, he’s shown a lot of improvement. It’s a little too early for an induction ceremony here, but definitely a lot of improvement.”
Cunningham isn’t the only skill position player the Patriots added to their roster on Saturday. The team also activated wide receiver Tyquan Thornton from IR. Thornton had been out since suffering a shoulder injury during joint practices with the Packers in August, and returned to practice this week.
The Patriots will need the extra depth at the skill positions with wide receivers JuJu Smith-Schuster and Demario Douglas both ruled out for the game with concussions. In addition to adding Cunningham and Thornton, the Patriots also elevated wide receiver Jalen Reagor from the practice squad. It’s Reagor’s second elevation this year.
Along with Reagor, defensive tackle Jeremiah Pharms was elevated from the practice squad as well. This is Pharms’ third elevation of the year, the limit for each player in a season.
In order to open up spots on the roster for Cunningham and Thornton, the Patriots placed two players on IR in linebacker Matthew Judon and offensive tackle Tyrone Wheatley Jr. Judon was injured Week 4 against Dallas, and is expected to miss multiple months after undergoing elbow surgery.
Wheatley, who was acquired by the Patriots in a post-training camp trade with the Cleveland Browns for running back Pierre Strong, was added to the injury report on Friday with a knee injury. He hasn’t played a snap for the Patriots yet this season, and was a healthy scratch each of the last three games.