FOXBORO, Mass. — The New England Patriots made a surprise signing Wednesday when they added a third quarterback to their active roster.
The Patriots signed former Cleveland Browns and Jacksonville Jaguars signal-caller Cody Kessler.
With Tom Brady as the starter and fourth-round pick Jarrett Stidham as the Patriots’ backup, signing a quarterback to their practice squad would have been a more predictable move. Kessler comes with more experience and is a better player than a quarterback the Patriots could have signed to their practice squad, however.
It’s entirely possible the Patriots wanted a third quarterback all along. They released Brian Hoyer during roster cuts but were interested, at some point, in re-signing him before he quickly was scooped up by the Indianapolis Colts.
The Patriots had an empty roster spot when they signed Kessler. They placed fullback James Develin on injured reserve Monday. So, perhaps the Patriots were just waiting for an opening on their roster before bringing that third quarterback aboard.
Brady was limited in practice last week with a calf injury, which forced Stidham to take on more practice reps. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick was asked Wednesday if managing Brady’s practice load played into New England’s decision to add Kessler.
“Whatever our decisions are, it would be more roster management,” Belichick said.
Stidham made his NFL debut Sunday in the Patriots’ 30-14 win over the New York Jets and promptly threw a pick six. It seems the Patriots’ confidence in Stidham is not wavering, however.
“Jarrett’s been with us all the way through, practiced every day,” Belichick said. “He’s gotten intermittently a lot of reps in the offense depending on the situation from week to week, preseason, regular season. Again, depending on what we were doing at that particular point in time, whether it be preseason games or training camp practices or regular season practices. Yup, he’s coming along well.”
The Patriots must open up another roster spot next week when tight end Ben Watson’s four-game suspension is lifted. It’s entirely possible Kessler simply is seeing a one-week tryout with the Patriots. If he impresses, then perhaps he’ll stay on board for the rest of the season. And if he doesn’t, then perhaps he’ll be cut for Watson.
The Patriots were at 52 players and didn’t have an obvious need for a 53rd. They also had a spot open on their practice squad. Why not add a quarterback?