What Would Lions Have To Give Up In Potential Gronkowski Trade?

Quinn has already swung six trades with the Patriots in three years as Detroit's GM.

Will Burchfield
July 10, 2018 - 1:31 pm

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The Lions reportedly discussed a Rob Gronkowksi trade with the Patriots in April, and the All-Pro tight end may be back on the market. 

He's yet to secure the new deal he desires, leading an NFL team executive to tell the Boston Sports Journal on Monday, "Where’s the restructure of his contract? Until that’s done, I think he’s still available. I wouldn’t be surprised if (Bill) Belichick is going to test Gronk’s buy-in with the contract." 

Gronkowski, 29, has two seasons remaining on the six-year, $54 million extension he signed with New England in 2012. He's set to make $8 million in 2018. He's told Belichick he wants to remain with the Patriots, but that's assuming the two sides figure out the financials before the start of this season. 

With training camp around the corner, negotiations have yet to yield a resolution.

The Patriots first engaged the Lions in trade talks because of their familiarity with Bob Quinn. (They also spoke with Tennessee, Houston and San Francisco). In three years as Detroit's GM, Quinn has swung six trades with New England. If he pulls off a seventh for Gronkowski, what would the Lions have to surrender? 

Enough assets to blow the Patriots away. 

Once Gronkowksi ended his threat of retirement, a possibility he first raised in the aftermath of the Super Bowl, New England's primary motivation to trade him was gone. His contract situation remains a sticking point, but he's signed through the 2019 season. The Patriots don't have to worry about losing him for nothing, not in the near future, anyway. 

To entice New England, the Lions would surely have to offer a first-round pick. That was the primary price the Seahawks paid when they traded for tight end Jimmy Graham in 2015, coming off a season in which Graham, then 28, scored 10 touchdowns and averaged 55 yards per game. Gronkowski, who turned 29 in May, scored eight touchdowns and averaged 77 yards per game last season. 

Through eight seasons, Gronkowski has earned four first-team All-Pro selections. Graham, at the time of the trade, had earned one through six seasons. In fact, Gronkowski has been an All-Pro in every season in which he's played at least 14 games since 2011. When healthy, he's the best player at his position in the NFL, and one of the best players in the game, period. 

The Seahawks also surrendered an established roster player in center Max Unger, who was just one season removed from a Pro Bowl appearance and two seasons removed from an All-Pro selection at the time of the trade. He's gone on to start all but one game in the past three seasons for the Saints. 

It's fair to assume the Lions would have to offer a similar asset to the Patriots. Whether they have one on their roster is tough to say.

New England could use help at cornerback, but the Lions aren't parting with Darius Slay. Would Nevin Lawson be a possibility? The Patriots also appear to need a running back, but the one the Lions would likely offer -- Ameer Abdullah -- isn't the type of between-the-tackles pounder New England is lacking. 

The Seahawks did recoup a fourth-rounder in the Graham trade, but the Lions would have a hard time landing something similar without trading a player of Unger's caliber. And if they didn't send an established NFLer New England's way, they'd likely have to sweeten the deal with another draft pick.

For the Lions, the question then becomes: Would it be worth it? Gronkowski, for all his accolades and ability, hasn't played a full season since 2010. His injury log reads like a CVS receipt. He'd also arrive with a contract dilemma and cap hit of about $11 million in 2018. The Lions only have about $9 million in cap space at the moment, per Spotrac.com. Gronkwoski's cap hit climbs to $12 million in 2019. 

The Lions are lacking at tight end, no doubt. Their GM and head coach know Gronkowski well. It's a nice match in theory. 

But the Patriots don't seem as motivated to trade Gronkowski as they once were, and the Lions probably wouldn't want to pay the price.