The Lions had an established tight end and then they needed one. The release of Eric Ebron this spring came as a jolt at the time, but it didn’t happen without the attempt to lure a much bigger name to the flex tight end role in Detroit.
The Lions were one of at least four teams to discuss a potential trade for Rob Gronkowski with the Patriots, TheMMQB’s Albert Breer said Monday on “The Herd with Colin Cowherd,” according to NESN.com.
“I don’t think (the Patriots) 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 on the show.
The Lions are an obvious connection based on how much of their brass came right from New England. General manager Bob Quinn worked in the front office that drafted Gronkowski in the second round in 2010. Coach Matt Patricia was the defensive coordinator the past four seasons. Detroit’s need for a new tight end in the absence of Ebron is clear.
Gronkowski, 29, is widely considered the best tight end in the NFL when he’s on the field. The four-time first-team All-Pro has four seasons with at least 1,000 yards and led the league with 17 touchdowns in 2011. At 6 feet 6 inches and 265 pounds, he’s considered one of the ultimate mismatch threats in the red zone and has been Tom Brady’s security blanket for years. He has missed 26 games over the past six seasons, however.
Gronkowski has been pushing for a new deal, as he’s set to make just $8.9 million this season, less than a million more than what Ebron was set to make on the fifth-year option on his rookie deal that Detroit ultimately declined to pick up. Those kinds of talks often lead the Patriots to exploring trades.
Obviously, the Lions and Patriots didn’t come to any terms as Detroit moved forward with a temporary plan at the position after rolling with Ebron the past four years. It signed Luke Willson and Levine Toilolo to one-year deals this offseason and expects last year’s fourth-round pick, Michael Roberts, to take an additional step. Willson or Roberts could secure even more of a long-term role with their play this season.