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Malik Cunningham Talks About His Decision to Join Ravens

QB Malik Cunningham
QB Malik Cunningham

When Malik Cunningham walked into the Under Armour Performance Center for his first day at his new job, Lamar Jackson gave him a "crazy" look. It was just like old times.

The college teammates at Louisville reunited in Baltimore after Cunningham left the New England Patriots' practice squad to sign with the Ravens' 53-man roster, and it wasn't a difficult decision for Cunningham.

"I'm happy to be here. They welcomed me with open arms," Cunningham said. "The guys are cool. I know a bunch of them. It feels very family oriented, so I like that."

Cunningham said Head Coach John Harbaugh and the Ravens called him Monday night to express their interest in signing him. Baltimore now has four quarterbacks on its 53-man roster, an atypical arrangement for a team that has often carried only two, and that isn't changing anytime soon.

For now, Cunningham will continue to practice as a quarterback, wide receiver, and on special teams. Harbaugh said, "he'll contribute in every way he can."

"From a quarterback perspective, it's a future type of a move," Harbaugh said.

"It's going to be really interesting to see how he develops. He's a quarterback; there's no doubt about that. He's here to develop as a quarterback. This is an opportunity. I think when you're a general manager, you've got to look for all those opportunities, and Eric [DeCosta], he's the best, so he does that."

Cunningham will likely have a chance to compete to be the No. 2 quarterback next offseason. Veteran backups Tyler Huntley and Josh Johnson aren't under contract for next year. Hearing the Ravens' commitment to developing him as a quarterback sold Cunningham.

"When he told me that, I was all ears," Cunningham said. "I was like, 'Yeah, I'm sliding. I ain't going to stay.'"

News of Cunningham's signing elicited reactions from a number of his former Patriots teammates, who clearly believe he has the potential to be a difference-maker.

"A lot of those guys knew I was capable of going out there and making plays and helping the team compete," Cunningham said. "You just have to take it with a grain of salt with the coaching and what the coaches want for the best of the team, which was to put somebody else in. But I knew and my teammates knew I should have had a chance to be out there."

Harbaugh said the Ravens will move forward with four quarterbacks on their 53-man roster, with Huntley likely continuing to serve as the No. 2 and Johnson as the third emergency quarterback.

If Cunningham is on the 53-man roster for the remainder of the regular season, he would become an exclusive rights free agent and be able to re-sign exclusively with the Ravens this offseason. If he were on the practice squad, he would become a free agent at year's end.

"He's got all types of potential," Jackson said. "He's explosive, can throw the ball anywhere on the field, make guys miss. He can do it all."

During his college career at Louisville, Cunningham completed 691-of-1,104 passes for 9,660 yards and 70 touchdowns. He also rushed for 3,170 yards and 50 touchdowns, averaging 5.1 yards per carry. The dual-threat quarterback was a four-year starter under center, following in Jackson's footsteps.

Cunningham's speed (he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.53 seconds at the Combine) is what elicited him getting work at wide receiver. But like Jackson, Cunningham views himself as a quarterback.

Cunningham went to Louisville with the intention of emulating Jackson and trying to be even better. They had one year of crossover. The two have stayed in touch over the years and now Cunningham gets to be in the same quarterbacks room with him once again.

"I learned a lot from him, how to be a quarterback on and off the field, take advantage of what defenses give you," Cunningham said. "The relationship we've built over the last seven, eight years it's been crazy. I'm just happy to have him in my corner and now he's my quarterback. It's crazy."

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