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Patriots waive backup QBs Bailey Zappe, Malik Cunningham in surprising cutdown day cuts

In a surprising move, the New England Patriots have cut quarterback Bailey Zappe a year after selecting him in Round 4 of the 2022 NFL Draft, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported on Tuesday.

The Patriots weren't done shaking up their QB room on Tuesday's deadline for teams to reduce their rosters to 53 as they also waived rookie QB/WR Malik Cunningham, NFL Network Insider Tom Pelissero reported. The two moves leave New England currently with one QB on its roster: starter Mac Jones.

Zappe appeared in four games, starting two as a rookie for the Patriots in 2022. He replaced an injured Brian Hoyer against the Packers, taking Green Bay to overtime before losing. Zappe also started in victories over the Lions and Browns and replaced an ineffective Jones the following week in a loss to the Bears. In that Monday night game, Patriots fans chanted "Zappe" in unison as a response to his brief heroics and Jones' struggles.

There was even a point this offseason where Patriots head coach Bill Belichick was fielding questions about whether there would be a QB competition in training camp this year between Zappe and Jones. That never materialized, with Jones receiving starter's reps all throughout camp.

Now Zappe is set to hit the waiver wire and is likely to receive interest from around the NFL. As a rookie, he completed 65 of 92 passes (70.7%) for 781 yards, five TDs and three picks. This preseason, Zappe played far more than any other Patriots QB, completing 30 of 51 passes (58.8%) for 253 yards and one TD, while also taking six sacks.

The Patriots selected Zappe 137th overall in the 2022 NFL Draft before 2023 NFL starters Sam Howell (Commanders) and Brock Purdy (49ers). Zappe set school records at both Houston Baptist and Western Kentucky with his passing proficiency, setting the NCAA record with 62 passing TDs in his only season with the Hilltoppers in 2021.

Cunningham signed with the Patriots as an undrafted free agent out of Louisville, working at both QB and wide receiver with the Patriots. He made a few highlight plays in the preseason, capturing some Patriots fans' imaginations, but completed only 3 of 6 passes for 19 yards and ran six times for 39 yards and one touchdown. Cunningham also caught one pass for minus-1 yard.

It's possible Cunningham will revert to the Patriots' practice squad if he goes unclaimed on the waiver wire.

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