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Lions Reportedly Discussed Gronkowski Trade With Patriots

They were one of four teams in talks with New England.

June 19, 2018 - 10:05 am

Rob Gronkowski on the Lions? The idea was at least broached by the Patriots this spring. 

With Gronkowski angling for a new contract and the Lions searching for a replacement for Eric Ebron, New England and Detroit had discussions about a trade involving the four-time All-Pro tight end, the MMQB's Albert Breer told The Herd with Colin Cowherd.  

"I don’t think they were shopping Gronk to the entire league, but there were some teams they trust that I know they talked to. Detroit, Tennessee, Houston, San Francisco — you guys can make the connections there," Breer said. 

Between Bob Quinn and Matt Patricia, the ties between the Lions and the Patriots now run deep. Quinn, who spent the first 16 years of his career in New England, has already pulled off six trades with the Patriots in three years as Detroit's general manager. He at least entertained the idea of a seventh. 

Talks between the two teams were apparently the hottest in the lead-up to the draft. At that point it wasn't clear if Gronkowski intended to play in the 2018 season -- and he certainly didn't ease the uncertainty with a strange press conference at a monster truck rally at Gillette Stadium in late April -- but Bill Belichick stepped in and smoothed things over. 

While Gronkowski is still negotiating a new contract, the possibility of a trade is off the table. 

“This kind of came to a point where they felt like he sort of disengaged from the program and he was asking for a raise," Breer said. "There was this bizarre press conference before that monster truck rally. That sort of served as the ‘All right, we need to get him in here now and we need to sit down and talk with him because this can’t keep going the way it’s going.'

“So Bill has Gronk in, and at that point, Bill had some discussions about trading him and Gronk sat down with Bill and all indications I got was that Gronk basically affirmed to Bill he wants to be a Patriot. That’s when they decided ‘OK, we’re gonna try to work out contract terms and go forward with this thing,” but there was a come to Jesus moment.”

After cutting Eric Ebron in March to avoid paying his $8.25 million option, the Lions enter the 2018 season with free-agent acquisition Luke Willson as their presumptive No. 1 tight end. Second-year pro Michael Roberts is expected to garner playing time as well. 

In 16 games (7 starts) for the Seahawks last year, Willson caught 15 passes for 153 yards and four touchdowns. He signed a one-year, $2.5 million contract with the Lions in March.

Gronkowski, meanwhile, caught 69 passes for 1,084 yards and eight touchdowns in 14 games for the Patriots. The 29-year-old signed a six-year, $54 million extension with New England in 2012 that will pay him $8 million this season. He hasn't played a full season since 2010, undone by myriad injuries. 

As for the other teams New England had trade talks with, the Texans are coached by former Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien; the Titans are coached by former Patriots linebacker Mike Vrabel, and their GM, Jon Robinson, was a scout for 12 years in Foxboro (much like Quinn); and the 49ers are coached by Kyle Shanahan, who has a long-standing friendship with Belichick, and their GM, John Lynch, briefly played for the Patriots in the final season of his career. 

"These trade talks weren't anytime recent, but just before the draft there was certainly some discussion that he could be moved," Breer said.