The New England Patriots were quite busy on NFL Draft weekend. Not only did they select 12 players in the seven rounds of the draft, they also filled out the rest of their roster by signing three additional prospects through rookie free agency.
As mentioned in our up-to-date Patriots UDFA tracker, the team reportedly signed quarterback Malik Cunningham, tight end Johnny Lumpkin and linebacker Jourdan Heilig. Per the NFL-NFLPA Collective Bargaining Agreement, all of them have signed three-year contracts.
Cunningham is joining the Patriots after a six-year career at Louisville. While undersized at 6-foot-0, 192 pounds, he became a highly productive dual-threat quarterback for the Cardinals.
Starting 47 games, he completed 62.6 percent of his pass attempts (692 of 1,105) for 9,664 yards, 70 touchdowns and 29 interceptions. He additionally gained 3,184 and scored 50 touchdowns on 619 rushing attempts, leading his team in rushing TDs each of the last two seasons. Scoring 120 total touchdowns, he finished his college career with one more than his predecessor at Louisville, Lamar Jackson.
Cunningham signed a sizable contract with the Patriots: his $200,000 in guarantees — a $30,000 signing bonus plus a $170,000 salary guarantee — rank second all-time on the team’s UDFA list behind only the $211,000 Jeff Demps received in 2012. Like Demps, however, that does not make him a roster lock.
The other two additions will bolster the Patriots’ tight end and linebacker/special teams depth.
Lumpkin is arriving in New England after spending seven years at the college level. He started out with a two-year stint at Hutchinson Community College, before a five-year tenure at Louisiana.
His production over his 51-game stint with the Ragin’ Cajuns — 36 catches for 408 yards and six touchdowns — already shows where his value lies: the 6-foot-5, 264-pounder projects as a blocking tight end at the next level. New England currently has an opening for that role, with neither of the starter-level tight ends Hunter Henry and Mike Gesicki particularly well-suited for that job.
The third and final signing, Jourdan Heilig, is arriving in New England via Appalachian State. Spending four years with the Mountaineers, he appeared in 51 games and served primarily as a special teamer and reserve option at the linebacker position.
Heilig has good length at 6-foot-2, and at 215 pounds is more built like a defensive back rather than a traditional off-the-ball linebacker. He will be competing for a backup role with a focus on the kicking game.
With Cunningham, Lumpkin and Heilig on the roster, the Patriots have no open spots available at the moment. They only have 89 active players with the team, yes, but the 90th and final spot remains occupied by safety Devin McCourty; his retirement has not yet been made official through the NFL transactions wire.