A week and a half after being released, Patriots backup quarterback Bailey Zappe is returning to the 53-man roster, a league source confirmed on Saturday.
To make room for Zappe, the Patriots placed recently claimed Matt Corral on the exempt/left squad list.
Zappe, who was a member of the practice squad for the past 10 days, will back up Mac Jones in Sunday’s opener against the Eagles. Quarterback/wide receiver Malik Cunningham is still on the practice squad.
The Patriots waived Zappe on cutdown day, leaving Jones as the lone quarterback on the 53-man roster. The 24-year-old Zappe was subject to waivers, but no team submitted a claim, so he decided to return to New England’s practice squad.
After the Patriots claimed Corral off waivers on Aug. 31, questions emerged about how the team would handle the backup quarterback spot. Corral would only have a week with the playbook ahead of Week 1, while Zappe is in his second year in New England. The initial thinking was that the Patriots would temporarily elevate Zappe from the practice squad to the game-day roster for the first three weeks of the season, but the NFL later clarified that the backup quarterback needs to be on the 53-man roster.
Coach Bill Belichick said Friday morning the team planned to finalize their quarterback depth chart later that day. When Corral did not participate in practice for a non-injury-related reason, the writing seemed on the wall. His time in New England consisted of just three practices.
The Patriots clearly had enough interest in Corral, a 2022 third-round pick, to submit a claim, but they ultimately decided to move forward with the same duo as last season: Jones and Zappe.
Corral is no longer an active member of the Patriots but is not able to sign with another team while on the exempt/left squad list. It is unclear why he received this designation.
If Corral were to return to play, the Patriots would have to open a spot on their 53-man roster.
If the Patriots had released Corral, he would have been subject to waivers again, able to sign with any team if he had cleared.
With just two quarterbacks on the 53-man roster, the Patriots will not be utilizing the league’s new emergency third quarterback rule for Week 1. In order to designate a player for this role, he must be a member of the 53-man roster.