Jaguars release backup quarterback Kessler

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars officially released quarterback Cody Kessler on Thursday, which helps clear a path for sixth-round draft pick Gardner Minshew to win the backup job behind Nick Foles.

Kessler started four games last season and completed 65 percent of his passes for 709 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions. The Jaguars went 2-2 in his starts.

The Jaguars benched starter Blake Bortles early in the second half of a Week 7 loss to Houston after he lost a pair of fumbles, and Kessler threw for 156 yards and a touchdown with one interception. Bortles started the next four games before being benched again.

Kessler started the next four games but managed to lead the Jaguars to only two offensive touchdowns (a pass to Dede Westbrook and a 1-yard run by Leonard Fournette). He suffered a shoulder injury against Miami in Week 16 and Bortles started the season finale.

The Jaguars acquired Kessler in a trade with Cleveland in March 2018, sending a conditional seventh-round pick to the Browns for a player who threw for 1,506 yards and six touchdowns with three interceptions in 12 games over two seasons. Kessler went 0-8 as a starter as a rookie in 2016.

Releasing Kessler leaves the Jaguars with four quarterbacks on the roster: Foles, Minshew, and first-year players Tanner Lee (a sixth-round pick in 2018) and Alex McGough. Lee spent last season on the practice squad and McGough spent last season on Seattle's practice squad.

Lee and McGough will be battling Minshew to back up Foles, whom the Jaguars signed in March to a four-year, $91 million contract with $50.125 million guaranteed.

Minshew was the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year at Washington State after throwing for 4,779 yards and 38 touchdown in Mike Leach's wide-open offense. Minshew won the starting job despite enrolling at Washington State in June.

He spent the previous two seasons at East Carolina. He won a juco national title at Northwest Mississippi Community College as a freshman in 2015.