The Seattle Seahawks are losing tight end Jace Sternberger just weeks after signing the former highly touted prospect to their practice squad. Sternberger’s agent Mike McCartney announced on Twitter on October 6 that the tight end was signing with the Washington Football Team.
The news points to one of the more confusing NFL rules, as teams can sign players off an opponent’s practice squad if they are going to be part of their active roster. The only exception is the players that are protected by a team each week. For example, if the Seahawks protected Sternberger for Week 5, Washington would have been unable to sign the tight end.
Sternberger is an intriguing player just starting his third NFL season. Heading into the 2019 NFL draft, NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein viewed Sternberger as having the potential to function as a team’s third receiver in an offense.
“Despite his experience in-line and willingness to block in Jimbo Fisher’s offense, he has neither the size nor strength to handle those duties as a pro,” Zierlein detailed. “Sternberger is athletic with above-average ball skills, catch radius and route breaks that help him undercover on the second and third level. His paychecks will be tied to his pass-catching so he’ll need to play stronger through route contact and with better focus when contested. He has eventual starter potential as a move tight-end who can function as a big WR3/4 from the slot.”
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A Practice Squad Player Can Only Be Moved Up to the Active Roster 2 Times Per Season
The challenge with practice squads is teams have a limited number of chances to protect players along with guidelines for the number of call-ups to the 53-man roster. Earlier this season, we saw the Seahawks release Jake Luton to allow the franchise to sign Robert Nkemdiche after the team reached the maximum number of times the defensive tackle could be moved up from the practice squad. Practice squad players are only permitted to be moved up to the active roster two times, per Bleeding Green Nation.
The NFL maintained the expanded 16-player practice squad for 2021 which was implemented last season to help with players sidelined on the COVID list, per ESPN. The Seahawks and all other NFL teams are permitted to protect four players on the practice squad each week.
“Practice squad players are free to sign with other NFL teams, assuming they are signed to the 53-man active roster,” Bleeding Green Nation’s Brandon Gowton detailed. “A practice squad player cannot be signed directly to another practice squad unless he is first released. A practice squad player can not sign with their team’s upcoming opponent, unless they do so six days before the upcoming game or 10 days if their team is currently on a bye week.”
Sternberger Signed With the Seahawks After Being Released by the Packers
Sternberger is three seasons removed from being selected by the Green Bay Packers with the No. 75 overall pick in the third round of the 2019 NFL draft. Coming out of Texas A&M, Sternberger was one of the top-ranked tight ends in the 2019 class.
Sternberger began the season with a two-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy. The Packers released Sternberger on September 21, and the Seahawks signed the tight end four days later.
The Seahawks still have plenty of depth at tight end, but starter Gerald Everett’s status for Week 5 is uncertain as he attempts to be cleared off the COVID list. Seattle is already dealing with an injury to Colby Parkinson meaning Will Dissly may once again shoulder a heavy load against the Rams.
The only silver lining in the Seahawks losing Sternberger to Washington is the move opens up a spot on the team’s practice squad to potentially add another player. Washington was looking to add a tight end after placing Logan Thomas on the Injured Reserve list.