While the New England Patriots might be angry at some of their former employees, they’re still on good speaking terms apparently with another few in a different NFL city.
The Patriots and Detroit Lions have become frequent trade partners the past few years, and they reportedly have done so again. According to Justin Rodgers of Detroit News, the Patriots have acquired tight end Michael Roberts from Detroit for a future late-round pick.
A fourth-round pick in 2017 out of Toledo, Roberts caught 13 passes for 146 yards and three TDs in two seasons in Detroit. The 6-foot-6, 270-pound Roberts was never able to build on some brief momentum he picked up along the way at various points, with injuries mostly holding him back.
The Lions completed a major overhaul at tight end this offseason, signing Jesse James in free agency and drafting first-rounder T.J. Hockenson, which made Roberts expendable.
Of course, the Patriots also are undergoing their own overhaul at the same position. Rob Gronkowski announced his retirement after the Patriots won the Super Bowl and has given no indication he’s going to change his mind. The Patriots have brought in a slew of lesser-talented players at that spot but don’t appear to have any clear solutions.
Lions GM Bob Quinn and head coach Matt Patricia each got their NFL starts in New England under Bill Belichick and have maintained a good working relationship. The Patriots have traded for former Lions players Kyle Van Noy and Jon Bostic, and they sent Johnson Bademosi to Detroit in another deal. They also have made a few Draft Day trades the past few years.
Patricia spoke about the trade shortly after it was reported.
Matt Patricia on the Michael Roberts trade: "Good competition in the (TE) room right now, so we had an opportunity to move on from Mike and hopefully get something in the future for it."
— Chris Burke (@ChrisBurkeNFL) June 13, 2019
What Michael Roberts does well
Despite possessing great size, Roberts still is a work in progress as a blocker. He has long arms and good mass but needs to harness his strength and leverage better. That’s an area where New England will miss Gronk a lot. Perhaps Roberts can develop this aspect of his game.
Roberts does have nice, soft hands and could be a goal-line threat. He shocked many as a senior in college at Toledo by catching 16 touchdown passes and briefly flashed that red-zone ability in Detroit despite the lack of consistency while battling through a shoulder injury last year.
In essence, Roberts is a second-year player despite entering Year Three in the NFL. He played sparsely as a rookie in 2017 before being suspended for the final game of the season for missing a team meeting. But in training camp last year, Roberts was one of the team’s standouts; a breakout appeared in the offing, but it never quite happened after he got hurt.
The Patriots signed veteran Ben Watson to help at the position, but he’s suspended the first four games of the season. Austin Sefarian-Jenkins was also signed, but he was released after some personal issues. The team's other four tight ends, led by former Giants Matt LaCosse, have a combined 63 career receptions.
Roberts had a two-TD game vs. Miami last year and just turned 25 in May. It’s not likely he turns into a Van Noy or an Eric Ebron, former Lions who needed a change of scenery to break out. But Roberts remains young with some intriguing potential.
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