Adam Schefter of ESPN reported Sunday that the teams were "deep" in trade talks, which peaked the week of the NFL Draft.
Once Gronkowski threatened to retire, he and the Patriots met to map out a plan that would keep Gronkowski on the team for his entire career. At that point, the trade fell apart and the Patriots instead tweaked the star tight end's contract and he remained in New England.
This obviously is going to shine the Lions in a poor light seeing as Schefter's report states Gronkowski would rather retire than play in Detroit, but it also seems like he wasn't willing to play anywhere other than New England. The Patriots then called off any proposed trade with the Lions, leaving Detroit disappointed.
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He finished the 2017 season with 69 catches for 1,084 yards and eight touchdowns.
By structuring the deal in this manner, Gronkowski's salary-cap charge for 2018 won't be dramatically affected, as the $3.3 million in incentives won't increase the charge. He popped up on the Patriots injury report Thursday but the ankle issue he dealt with was a minor one, and he is expected to be good to go Sunday night. He has opened the 2018 season with nine receptions for 138 yards and a touchdown.