The light compensation suggests Kessler will need to compete for a backup job with his new team, even though Blake Bortles (wrist) is the only other quarterback currently on the roster. Jacksonville could seek an upgrade in the latter stages of free agency or the upcoming draft, as Kessler is a risky No. 2 quarterback for a team that likes its chances of returning to the playoffs. The 2016 third-round pick completed 65.6 percent of his passes for a respectable 7.1 yards per attempt as a rookie, but he lost each of his eight starts while throwing for only six touchdowns. Kessler then spent most of 2017 buried on the bench, ultimately attempting 23 passes without making a start.
The team traded for Tyrod Taylor, signed Drew Stanton and is expected to take a quarterback within the first four picks of the upcoming draft. There won't be room for Kessler or Kevin Hogan on the final roster unless one of the other signal callers is injured. A 2016 third-round pick, Kessler lost all eight of his starts as a rookie, despite completing 65.6 percent of his passes for 7.1 yards per attempt with only two interceptions. Of course, he threw for just six touchdowns and the Browns averaged 15.8 points in his starts. Kessler only attempted 23 passes last season, splitting backup duties with Hogan throughout the year. A late-round pick is the most Cleveland can hope for.
Kessler made three appearances in 2017 and completed 11 of 23 passes for 121 yards with no touchdowns and one interception.
Though he showed flashes of competency behind center during the 2016 season, Kessler began this year as Cleveland's third-string quarterback behind DeShone Kizer and Kevin Hogan. His only extended period of playing came on Oct. 22 against the Titans after Kizer was benched to start the second half. The Browns are expected to add yet another quarterback in the 2018 NFL Draft, and that could mean the end of Kessler's time in Cleveland. The 24-year-old improved his arm strength over the offseason last year, and even if he's cut loose by the Browns, another team might be willing to take a flier on the former USC product.
Kessler was on the field for seven plays in replace of DeShone Kizer (ribs) and completed 1 of 3 passes for five yards during Sunday's 38-24 loss to the Lions.
When Kizer left the game with a rib injury, Kessler was called on to replace the rookie, though the former USC quarterback ultimately failed to move the ball as well as his teammate. He was sacked three times during his seven plays of action while completing just one pass. Kizer is confident he'll be able to suit up Sunday against Jacksonville, meaning Kessler will once again be destined for backup duties.
Kessler made his first appearance of the season in Sunday's 12-9 overtime loss to the Titans, coming on in relief for Kizer in the third quarter and completing 10 of 19 passes for 121 yards, no touchdowns and an interception. Though he was more productive during the contest than the struggling Kizer, who threw two more interceptions to bring his total to a league-high 13 on the season, Kessler's inability to engineer a touchdown drive likely prevented him from getting a look as the starter in Week 8. However, with Kizer's hold on the top gig on shaky ground after being replaced due to ineffectiveness midway through each of his last three starts, it wouldn't be surprising if Kessler was called upon again at some point Sunday. The Vikings defense is yielding just 283 yards per game for the season, good for the fourth-best mark in the NFL.
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