And at one point Thursday, it looked like New England had found a potential player to fill that slot, as they traded a conditional seventh-round pick for Detroit Lions tight end Michael Roberts, according to CBS Sports.
On Friday, however, the Lions announced that “Roberts reverted back to the team’s roster, per trade conditions.”
The Boston Globe’s Jim McBride suggested that the conditions involved Roberts failing a physical with New England.
— Jim McBride (@globejimmcbride) June 14, 2019
Rather than try to find somewhere else to send Roberts or keep him themselves, the Lions instead waived the embattled tight end, who will now have to seek a new team via waiver wire rather than trade.
Roberts played in just eight games for Detroit in 2018, catching nine passes for 100 yards and three touchdowns.
He caught four balls for 46 yards and no scores in 15 games in his 2017 rookie campaign.
The Lions were ready to move on from Roberts after drafting T.J. Hockenson in the first round of the 2019 draft and signing Jesse James away from the Pittsburgh Steelers in free agency.
Those prior moves likely explained both the bargain-basement price they took for the trade and their subsequent willingness to simply cut bait.
The Patriots, meanwhile, continue to hunt under every rock and scrape every barrel in the NFL in the hopes of replacing Gronkowski, who may very well be a future Hall of Famer.
They tried signing Austin Seferian-Jenkins, only to cut him earlier this month.
They added Benjamin Watson, who managed to get himself suspended for four games and also happens to be 38 years old.
Watson has been in the league so long that when he won a Super Bowl ring with New England, it was his rookie year and Donovan McNabb was quarterback for the other team, the Eagles, in Super Bowl XXXIX.
The Patriots also have Matt LaCosse on their depth chart, who signed as a free agent after catching just 24 balls for 250 yards and a touchdown in 2018 with Denver.
To put it bluntly, none of those guys are anywhere near Gronk’s level.
As for Roberts, it’s probably not a good sign for your career when a 6-10 team just sent you packing after you reportedly couldn’t pass a physical.
It’s quite possible Roberts may end up out of football entirely just a day after finding out he had a chance to play for the defending Super Bowl champions.
There simply aren’t a lot of options left on the free agent board, and the draft has come and gone, so New England is going to have to hope for a long shot to break their way with either the talent they already have or whoever they bring in.
We’ll see who lines up at tight end for the Patriots when the season kicks off in September.
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