GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Green Bay Packers are releasing tight end Jace Sternberger rather than bringing him back to the 53-man roster, according to a source.
Sternberger’s two-game suspension ended following Monday night’s victory over the Detroit Lions. The Packers had to add him to the roster or release him by 3 p.m. Tuesday.
The Packers used a third-round pick on Sternberger in 2019. Usually, that type of draft capital – not to mention a signing bonus of just more than $1 million – would mean more patience.
“You can’t wait forever” for promising players, general manager Brian Gutekunst said in August. “But I think there’s usually signs along the way of whether they’re going to be willing to make the sacrifices that you need to make. Every player’s different in how they mature and how they develop. Whenever you bring a player into your program that you think has the ability to really help you, you’d like to give him all the time in the world, but that’s not always the case because this train moves pretty fast sometimes and you’ve got to do what’s best for the team.”
With Robert Tonyan’s breakout production, Marcedes Lewis’ leadership and blocking and Josiah Deguara’s versatility, the Packers were set at the top of the tight end depth chart. Thus, the training camp battle for the fourth and final spot was between Sternberger and a former bouncer, Dominique Dafney.
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After the Packers swung and missed on the likes of veterans Martellus Bennett and Jimmy Graham, they grabbed Sternberger following a one-year wonder season of 48 receptions for 832 yards for Texas A&M. His 17.3-yard average and 10 touchdowns led the nation’s tight ends. Instead, Sternberger’s career went nowhere fast. His rookie season was ruined by a concussion in training camp and an ankle injury in the preseason finale. In 2020, COVID sidelined him for the start of training camp and a Week 13 concussion essentially ended his season. Even when cleared from the concussion, he was inactive for the playoff games.
Sternberger needed a big training camp this summer to change the equation but didn’t deliver. Where he stood in Green Bay’s eyes became apparent the day after Sternberger made an impressive catch in the preseason opener vs. Houston.
“That one play doesn’t really describe the player,” tight ends coach Justin Outten said. “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 18 games over two seasons, Sternberger caught 12-of-16 passes for 114 yards and one touchdown. He played merely 262 snaps from scrimmage.
Sternberger was the 75th pick of the 2019 draft. The 76th pick was receiver Terry McLaurin, a star for the Washington Football Team. The 82nd pick was guard Nate Davis, a starter for the Tennessee Titans.