JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — The Jacksonville Jaguars released quarterback Cody Kessler on Thursday, clearing the way for rookie Gardner Minshew to become Nick Foles' backup.
Kessler started four games in place of Blake Bortles last December, completing 64 percent of his passes for 553 yards and a touchdown. He also threw an interception and fumbled four times.
Minshew, a sixth-round draft pick, signed his rookie contract and will take part in a three-day rookie camp beginning Friday.
Right tackle Jawaan Taylor (second round), tight end Josh Oliver (third), running back Ryquell Armstead (fifth) and defensive tackle Dontavius Russell (seventh) also signed rookie deals Thursday.
To make room for them on the 90-man roster, the Jaguars released linebacker Blair Brown, guard Parker Ehinger and running backs Dimitri Flowers and back David Williams. They also parted ways with linebacker Donald Payne after he failed a physical.
Brown and Payne had played in a combined 49 games for Jacksonville the past two years, mostly on special teams.
Jacksonville made an offseason commitment to improving special teams. Personnel chief Tom Coughlin and general manager Dave Caldwell also wanted to upgrade behind Foles, the former Super Bowl MVP who signed a four-year, $88 million deal in free agency.
The Jags traded a 2019 seventh-round pick to Cleveland for Kessler in March 2018. The Browns used the 221st overall selection on Tulane cornerback Donnie Lewis Jr.
Coughlin and Caldwell took Minshew a round earlier. They gushed about the quarterback who started at Northwest Mississippi Community College, transferred to East Carolina and ended up at Washington State in 2018.
The 6-foot-1 Minshew completed 71 percent of his passes for 4,776 yards with the Cougars, throwing 38 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
Kessler's departure leaves Jacksonville with Foles, Minshew, 2018 sixth-round pick Tanner Lee and Alex McGough as the team's quarterbacks.