A new report by ESPN’s Adam Schefter paints an image of what the Detroit Lions could have had—a superstar tight end that would have changed how everyone looked at this roster. Unfortunately, that star would have called it quits rather than play for Detroit.
The New England Patriots looked at their superstar tight end Rob Gronkowski as a potential trade offer to the Lions. After their Super Bowl defeat, Gronk had shown hesitation to return for next season. For the Lions it was a chance to fill a position with little talent on their own roster.
However, upon learning of the trade plans, Gronkowksi refused to entertain the notion. He threatened to retire rather than play for Detroit, and declined to answer phone calls from the Lions organization. This was all in spite of the supposed Patriots organization ties in Detroit with general manager Bob Quinn and head coach Matt Patricia.
Patriots and Lions nearly completed a blockbuster trade in the week of the NFL draft that would have sent Rob Gronkowski to Detroit, per sources. Now Gronkowski is in Detroit to play the Lions tonight.https://t.co/Dn0DEHWmAu— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) September 23, 2018
Eventually, Gronkowski signed a new contract with the New England Patriots and returned to the team for the 2018 season. He is currently the receiving leader for the squadron with 138 yards.
Schefter characterizes the talks between New England and Detroit as “deep into trade discussions,” so this was more than just an idea being floated, and Detroit did make overtures to reach towards Gronkowski itself. From the reports it was clear this was a real possibility until Gronkowski himself nixed the plans.
It’s an old tale for the Lions as the image of playing for Detroit appears tarnished, but it also could just be a matter in this case that Gronkowski wanted to stay in New England. Still, it can’t be a confidence-booster for this “Patriots Way” regime that they couldn’t pull off a trade, even with all their ties to Foxborough and visions for the future.
UPDATE 9/23/18: Adam Schefter clarified his report on Twitter, adding that it was a matter that Gronkowski didn’t want to leave the Patriots, rather than he didn’t want to play for Detroit. In addition, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport made similar observations as well, citing that the tight end wanted to only play for New England quarterback Tom Brady:
But when Gronkowski learned of his new reality, he strongly resisted. He informed the Patriots that he would rather step away from football and retire than play for another team, coach or quarterback. He told people close to him that he only wants to catch passes from Tom Brady.