Jace Sternberger is expected to make his return to Green Bay later in October, but he won’t be playing for the Packers this time around.
On October 6, the Washington Football Team signed the former Packers third-round tight end to their active roster from the Seattle Seahawks’ practice squad, giving Sternberger his first shot on an NFL active roster since the end of the 2020 playoffs. He will compete with Ricky Seals-Jones, John Bates and Sammis Reyes for playing time now that starting tight end Logan Thomas has been placed on injured reserve.
The Packers released Sternberger from the NFL’s reserve/suspended list on September 21 after he served his two-game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy back in February. He caught 15 passes for 129 yards and two touchdowns during 20 career performances for the team, missing the majority of his rookie season with a preseason injury and struggling to crack the rotation in his second year.
Unless Sternberger loses his roster spot in the next few weeks, he will find himself back in Green Bay in Week 7 when the Packers host Washington at Lambeau Field.
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Did Packers Give Up Too Early on Sternberger?
There was a sense for the majority of the offseason that the Packers would inevitably move on from Sternberger in 2021. Not only did the 2019 third-round pick have a difficult time cracking the rotation behind Robert Tonyan and Marcedes Lewis, but he was also ruled inactive for the final six games of the 2020 season — including both postseason games — in favor of street-signed tight end Dominique Dafney.
Still, Sternberger’s suspension gave the Packers the opportunity to delay their decision on his roster status until Week 3 of the season in the event that injuries struck the position and they wanted a familiar face to boost their depth. And sure enough, an injury did strike when 2020 third-rounder Josiah Deguara, freshly healed from an ACL tear in his rookie season, sustained a concussion in the first game of the season.
The Packers, however, resisted the temptation and waived Sternberger … only to have another one of their tight ends, Dafney, get injured a few days later and get placed on injured reserve with a hip injury before the week ended.
Since then, the Packers have added another body to the tight end room, swiping Tyler Davis from the Indianapolis Colts’ practice squad to replace the run- and pass-blocking value that Dafney brought to their offense, but Davis was limited to a special teams role (seven snaps) in Week 4’s win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. It was also a frustrating performance for the Packers’ top tight ends with Aaron Rodgers completing just three of his nine passes to Tonyan and Lewis in the win for just 15 total yards.
Could another pass-catching tight end like Sternberger have helped them? Tough to say, especially where Sternberger is concerned. Drops and missed assignments were a theme for Sternberger in his second season with the Packers, making him difficult to trust in a regular role. Both sides might have also just been ready for a fresh start with the Packers shifting their focus to their other third-round tight end and Sternberger getting a chance to try putting it all together for another offense.