JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell recently said the team had a "backup quarterback" plan.
On Wednesday, Jacksonville's front office followed through with that plan by trading for quarterback Cody Kessler.
The Jaguars traded a conditional 2019 seventh-round pick for the 2016 third-round pick. Kessler has to be on the active 46-man roster for six games next season in order for the Browns to collect the seventh-round pick, according to a league source.
The 6-foot-1, 215-pound passer has appeared in 12 career games - making eight starts - during his first two seasons in the NFL. Kessler was 0-8 as a starter, which is probably more of a reflection of the Browns' struggles over the last two seasons than anything else.
Kessler completed 139-of-218 passes for 1,508 yards, six touchdowns and three interceptions during his two-year stint with the Browns. He set Browns rookie franchise records for completion percentage (65.5 pct.), passer rating (92.3) and fewest interceptions (two) in his first year with the team.
Prior to entering the NFL, Kessler started 41 games for the USC Trojans. The Bakerfield, Calif. native completed 851-of-1,261 passes for 10,339 passing yards, 88 touchdowns and 19 interceptions in college.
Kessler's arrival in Jacksonville means the Jaguars actually have a backup quarterback for starter Blake Bortles under contract before the draft. Kessler is still playing on his cheap rookie deal with two years remaining on the contract. If he makes the roster as a fit for Nathaniel Hackett's offense, Kessler will serve as inexpensive insurance for Bortles in case of an injury.
The conditional seventh-round pick risks very little for the Jaguars, who are in "win now" mode.
The pick wouldn't be handed over until 2019 and relies on Kessler making the 53-man roster in the regular season. If Kessler makes the team and meets the conditions of the trade, the Jaguars will still have a seventh-round pick available in next year's draft.
The team traded offensive lineman Luke Bowanko to the Baltimore Ravens for a 2019 seventh-round pick before Week 1 last season.
If Kessler fails to make the team, the Jaguars will have had a five-month window to evaluate him as a backup without consequence. The Jaguars would retain both of their seventh-round picks in 2019 if Kessler fails to make the squad.
Jacksonville is getting a backup quarterback with upside and starting experience. The franchise is paying very little to have the opportunity to add him to the offseason roster and give him a shot at a job.
A move like this shouldn't preclude the Jaguars from investing a draft pick in another quarterback. If anything, this move affords the Jaguars the opportunity to have an unproven entity compete with a young, experienced backup quarterback during training camp.
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