The Lions are getting a conditional seventh-round pick in 2020 in return.
Veteran Benjamin Watson figures to be part of the mix, but he will miss the first four games of the season due to an NFL suspension. Stephen Anderson, who spent the 2018 season on New England's practice squad, rounds out the top of the depth chart along with 2018 seventh-round pick Ryan Izzo.
The Patriots inherit Roberts' contract, which has two years remaining. Roberts is due to earn a base salary of $645,000 in 2019 and $735,000 in 2020. The Lions selected him in the fourth round of the 2017 NFL draft out of Toledo. The 6-foot-5, 265-pound Roberts has played in 23 regular-season games over the past two years, totaling 13 catches for 146 yards and three touchdowns.
After Roberts struggled with injuries last season while appearing on the cusp of a breakout multiple times, Detroit worked to revamp the tight end room over the past six months. That included drafting T.J. Hockenson in the first round and Isaac Nauta in the seventh and signing free agents Jesse James and Logan Thomas. The quartet of new faces left Roberts in a tough spot in order to make the roster.
"Obviously with the tight end position, kind of in the conversation here, we have good competition in the room right now," Lions coach Matt Patricia said. "We had an opportunity to move on from Mike and hopefully, potentially get something for it. So it was a good opportunity for us as a team to do that and build our team long term. There's always situations, too, when roster movement happens that may affect the overall total number. We are currently at 89, we are not at 90. So we do have an open roster spot at the moment."
This is the latest in a litany of trades made between the Lions and Patriots since former New England staffer Bob Quinn took over as Detroit's general manager in 2016 -- including trading linebacker Kyle Van Noy to New England and making moves during various NFL drafts.