In a surprising turn of events, the New England Patriots have decided to release quarterback Bailey Zappe, just a year after selecting him in the fourth round of the 2022 NFL Draft. The report comes from NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport on Tuesday.
Adding to the shakeup in the Patriots’ quarterback lineup on the roster reduction deadline day, the team also opted to waive rookie QB/WR Malik Cunningham, as reported by NFL Network Insider Tom Pelissero. These moves have left the New England Patriots with only one quarterback on their roster at the moment, namely the starter Mac Jones.
During his rookie year in 2022, Zappe made appearances in four games and started two. He stepped in for the injured Brian Hoyer against the Packers, taking the game to overtime before facing defeat. Zappe also secured starting positions in wins against the Lions and Browns. In the subsequent week, he replaced an underperforming Jones in a loss to the Bears. His brief moments of success, coupled with Jones’ struggles, led to Patriots fans collectively chanting “Zappe” during a Monday night game.
During the offseason, there was speculation about a potential quarterback competition in training camp between Zappe and Jones. However, Jones consistently took on the role of the starter in practice, and the competition never materialized, as confirmed by Patriots head coach Bill Belichick.
With this release, Zappe is now headed for the waiver wire, and it’s expected that numerous NFL teams will express interest in acquiring him. During his rookie season, Zappe completed an impressive 70.7% of his passes, connecting for 781 yards, five touchdowns, and three interceptions. In the preseason, he had more playing time compared to other Patriots quarterbacks, completing 58.8% of his passes for 253 yards and one touchdown, but he also faced six sacks.
The Patriots selected Zappe as the 137th overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, a choice that occurred before future 2023 NFL starting quarterbacks Sam Howell (with the Commanders) and Brock Purdy (with the 49ers). Zappe made a name for himself by setting records at both Houston Baptist and Western Kentucky due to his exceptional passing skills, including a remarkable NCAA record of 62 passing touchdowns during his sole season with the Hilltoppers in 2021.
Malik Cunningham, who was signed by the Patriots as an undrafted free agent from Louisville, showcased his versatility by practicing at both quarterback and wide receiver positions. Despite creating some impressive moments in the preseason that captured the attention of Patriots fans, he only completed 3 of 6 passes for 19 yards. Additionally, he ran the ball six times for a total of 39 yards and secured one touchdown. Cunningham even managed to catch one pass, albeit for a loss of 1 yard.
There is a possibility that Cunningham might find a place on the Patriots’ practice squad if he goes unclaimed on the waiver wire.