The talent search never stops for the Green Bay Packers, even with less than two days to go before the NFL’s 53-man roster cutdown deadline.
According to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle, the Packers hosted undrafted rookie tight end Josh Pederson for a workout on August 29, potentially considering him for a role on their practice squad as they begin crafting their first rosters of the 2021 season.
Pederson is the son of former Philadelphia Eagles head coach Doug Pederson, who coached the team to a 41-33 win over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII. As a player, the elder Pederson also spent several seasons with the Packers themselves as one of the backup quarterbacks behind Brett Favre, winning a Super Bowl XXXI ring with the team following the 1996 season.
The younger Pederson is heading into his first NFL season after spending five years (counting a redshirt season) at the University of Louisiana-Monroe in the Sun Belt Conference. He was the Warhawks’ most efficient scoring weapon during his junior year in 2019, catching a team-high nine touchdowns and finishing with career-high marks in both receptions (43) and receiving yards (567).
Pederson has already spent time on a few NFL rosters. The San Francisco 49ers originally signed him as an undrafted rookie in May, but he had a disappointing start to training camp and was waived on August 4 before getting to play in a preseason game. While the New Orleans Saints gave him a second opportunity a few days later, he didn’t last long in their ranks and was cut loose on August 20 again without seeing exhibition action.
The Packers are currently well-equipped at tight end between Robert Tonyan, Marcedes Lewis, Josiah Deguara and Dominique Dafney. They also have Jace Sternberger, a 2019 third-round pick, vying for a place on the roster despite being suspended for the first two weeks of the season. Depth for the practice squad, however, could be on their mind after seeing promising youngster Isaac Nauta go down with an injury.
The Packers will need to announce their initial 53-man roster before the 4 p.m. ET deadline on Tuesday, August 31.
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Does Sternberger Get Benefit of Doubt?
The Packers are likely at the end of their rope with Sternberger after an underwhelming two seasons. While he missed the majority of his rookie year with an injury, Sternberger had a chance to make an impact in 2020 and instead floundered with just 12 catches for 114 yards and a touchdown. He also saw a midseason practice-squad addition (Dafney) overtake his role on the depth chart, resulting in Sternberger spending the final six games as a healthy scratch, including in both postseason matchups.
Are the Packers prepared to finally give up on the former third-round pick, though? And if so, will they cut the cord immediately or bide their time?
While in no way should Sternberger’s two-game suspension for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy be viewed as an advantage, he won’t count against the Packers’ 53-man roster until Week 3 when he is eligible to return. That buys Green Bay a little bit of time to see whether their quartet of tight ends can hold up without him. If someone underperforms and gets injured, it could be Sternberger’s saving grace.
At the same time, the Packers might feel more comfortable moving on from Sternberger regardless of the circumstances. They will likely keep him while he serves his suspension for the sake of getting a salary-cap credit against the 2022 cap, but there has been little in camp or the preseason to suggest he has taken a positive step forward.
If Sternberger is out, all the more reason for the Packers to stash and develop more tight ends on their practice squad.