Bailey Zappe and Malik Cunningham do not have to relocate, at least for the time being, because the Patriots are putting the band back together.
New England waived both QBs on Tuesday to reach the league-mandated 53-man roster limit.
Multiple reports said both quarterbacks cleared waivers and are returning to Foxborough, Mass. as part of the Patriots’ practice squad.
Zappe, a second-year quarterback who the Patriots selected in the fourth round out of Western Kentucky in last year’s NFL draft, stepped in for two games for an injured Mac Jones last season — and New England won both of them.
Cunningham, a rookie, signed this spring as an undrafted free agent from Louisville.
Tom E. Curran, the Patriots insider for NBC Sports Boston, cautioned that these moves may not solidify the final quarterback room behind Jones as we head into the NFL season.
“While Zappe returns, that Patriots felt they could live without Zappe and/or could upgrade says quite a bit. As does the fact they were at least a bit confident no other QB room would have a vacancy for him. So he’s back. But things are changed. And Pats may keep on browsing,” Curran tweeted Wednesday afternoon.
When the Patriots opened training camp, the expectation was that Zappe and Jones would compete for the starting quarterback job, with head coach Bill Belichick repeatedly declining to officially announce his QB1 for this season.
Jones had a strong rookie campaign in 2021, leading the Patriots into the postseason and earning a trip to the Pro Bowl.
But the Alabama alum struggled last season after offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels took the head coaching job with the Raiders.
Without McDaniels, Belichick turned the offense over to Matt Patricia, who built his reputation on the defensive side of the ball.
Belichick also named former Giants head coach Joe Judge the Patriots’ quarterbacks coach, even though the bulk of his experience was on special teams.
As a result, Jones regressed and the Patriots missed the playoffs.
In July, Jones spoke about having a “fresh start” with Belichick.
“I think the biggest thing that we’ve all talked about is just having a fresh start. I think there’s a lot of learning experiences from last year that we’ve talked about and this year, it’s all about just working together, right?” Jones said.
“You’ve got to come up with a plan, obviously talk about it, and then execute it. So, I’m excited for that part of it.”
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