Green Bay Packers Now Have to Make Decision on Jace Sternberger

Green Bay Packers tight end Jace Sternberger (87) and tight end Robert Tonyan (85) participate in organized team activities Wednesday, June 2, 2021, in Green Bay, Wis.Apc Packersota 0602211084djp
Green Bay Packers tight end Jace Sternberger (87) and tight end Robert Tonyan (85) participate in organized team activities Wednesday, June 2, 2021, in Green Bay, Wis.Apc Packersota 0602211084djp /

The Green Bay Packers just beat the Detroit Lions on Monday Night Football, but they now have a rather big decision to make when it comes to their roster.

Tight end Jace Sternberger’s two-week suspension is now up and by 3:00 CST on Tuesday, the Green Bay Packers either have to add him to the 53-man roster or cut him.

If they cut Sternberger, I imagine that in a perfect world, Green Bay would be able to re-sign him to the practice squad. However, I see that as unlikely considering that he is a former third-round pick who would have to clear waivers first. Odds are another team wouldn’t mind adding him to their roster.

On the flip side, if the Green Bay Packers add Sternberger to the 53-man roster, they’ll have to cut someone first in order to make room for him.

It goes without saying, but up to this point in his career, Sternberger has not lived up to his draft status. A big part of that is his inability to stay on the field.

He has battled injuries, missed time due to COVID-19, and has now been suspended for the first two games of the 2021 season.

According to PFF ($$), Sternberger has only 301 career NFL snaps. That’s not a lot to begin with but that’s an especially small number for a tight end, where the transition from college to the NFL is one of the more difficult ones to make.

As we’ve talked about before, very rarely do we see tight ends make a huge impact during their rookie seasons. In fact, more often than not it takes until year two or sometimes year three. It’s a demanding position where players are asked to block and know techniques like an offensive lineman but they also need to be savvy route runners and pass catchers like a receiver.

This is the primary reason that Green Bay should hold on to Sternberger. With only one year of collegiate experience as a tight end and barely 300 NFL snaps at the position, he simply needs more time, and moving on two years into his career seems a bit premature.

Now, having said that, there was one quote in particular from tight ends coach Justin Outten after the first preseason game that really stands out and provides some insight into where Sternberger stands.

When asked, Outten talked about how Sternberger is still struggling with the playbook and being far too inconsistent:

"“That one play doesn’t really describe the player,” Outten said via Sports Illustrated. “It’s more consistently what you’re putting in day in and day out. With his consistency, it’s kind of been sporadic. Whether it’s still getting used to the playbook or feeling around the line of scrimmage, he’s still having some up-and-down days. With the extra reps that he’s getting, he’s got a handle it a little bit better in a sense of more video and doing the extra things outside. But that’s all fixable. Those things can come along. This is a huge preseason for him with these three games and being the guy and getting as much reps as possible in these live settings. He can grow from some lessons that he learned last night and then moving forward.”"

In his limited playing time, Sternberger has caught 15 of his 19 targets for 129 yards and two touchdowns. He also has one drop and has experienced growing pains as a blocker—an important role in this offense. Other than his Week 1 reception against Houston this summer, Sternberger would fail to stick out during the preseason.

This offseason alone, we’ve seen GM Brian Gutekunst move on from former draft picks of his if they haven’t performed, with Josh Jackson and Ka’dar Hollman being the examples.

Another factor to consider is how long the team could be without Josiah Deguara, who is still in concussion protocol. Without Deguara, the team has only three tight ends on the 53-man roster, all of which are used over the course of a game. But are they willing to roster five tight ends?

We also have to mention the unknown surrounding the tight end unit in 2022. Marcedes Lewis could very well retire, and we don’t know what Robert Tonyan’s future holds as he is a free agent and the Green Bay Packers are short on cap space.

My guess is that Green Bay does add Sternberger to the roster. As I mentioned, given the nature of the position, it feels too soon to give up on him — although maybe the Packers feel differently — and this is an offense where the tight end is used heavily.

A possible cut candidate as a result of this move could be Jake Hanson, who was a surprise to make the initial roster to begin with. With Josh Myers as the starting center, Green Bay has Lucas Patrick and Jon Runyan to lean on at center if needed. Plus Hanson is someone that the Packers could likely get back to the practice squad.

At the beginning of summer, I thought for sure that Sternberger would be on this roster. But given Outten’s comments and his underwhelming preseason performance, I won’t be surprised if he’s left off, despite my prediction that the team makes room for him.

UPDATE: The Green Bay Packers have waived Jace Sternberger, according to Tom Pelissero.