Patriots reportedly releasing quarterback Cody Kessler

Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com

As first reported by the NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, the Patriots are releasing veteran quarterback Cody Kessler.

Though he spent much of the 2019 season with the Patriots, Kessler was never on the active roster for a game. His main function while in Foxboro was to ease the workload of both Tom Brady and Jarrett Stidham as the former dealt with various injuries. Kessler worked with the scout team as Stidham took more reps with the starters to help Brady rest amid an elbow injury, among other issues.

Kessler previously spent time with the Eagles, Jaguars, and Browns. Now he gets a chance to start over with a fifth team.

As for the Patriots, this brings their plan at quarterback for 2020 into focus even more. Jarrett Stidham has the inside track for the starting job, according to Jeff Howe of The Athletic. The Pats also recently re-signed Brian Hoyer for his third stint in New England as a veteran backup who knows the system and can push Stidham for reps in camp.

NASHVILLE, TN - AUGUST 17: Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels talks with Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer #2 of the New England Patriots during a week two preseason game against the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium on August 17, 2019 in Nashville, Tennessee. The Patriots defeated the Titans 22-17. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
NASHVILLE, TN - AUGUST 17: Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels talks with Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer #2 of the New England Patriots during a week two preseason game against the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium on August 17, 2019 in Nashville, Tennessee. The Patriots defeated the Titans 22-17. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

It's likely, however, that the Patriots will refill the vacancy left by Kessler's departure. There's a distinct possibility that comes in the form of a draft pick or undrafted free agent. Oregon's Justin Herbert, Utah State's Jordan Love, and Georgia's Jake Fromm are among several prospects who reportedly met with the Patriots at the combine.

Cutting Kessler clears $935,000 off the Patriots' salary cap, but nets only $260,000 if and when a player with a $675,000 salary replaces him (via Miguel Benzan). They can use all the space they can get, if only to have more than enough room to sign all of their 2020 draft picks. The NFL Draft is still expected to happen on time, April 23-25, just in a remotely broadcast type of setting as the U.S. hunkers down during the COVID-19 pandemic.

We'll see if the outbreak ever affects the start time of the actual 2020 season. But either way, the Patriots continue to crystallize their initial succession plan for Brady.

Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at [email protected].