Quinn fills a job that became vacant when the Lions fired president Tom Lewand and general manager Martin Mayhew on Nov. 5 after the team began the season 1-7.
Quinn will oversee football operations and report directly to owner and chairman of the board Martha Firestone Ford and president Rod Wood.
"We are thrilled to have agreed to a deal with Bob to make him our new general manager," Wood said. "As Mrs. Ford indicated at the outset, our search would be national in scope, and we would do everything possible to identify the very best person to lead our football operation. We believe Bob is that person.
"I also want to thank Ernie Accorsi for his assistance in this process. Ernie proved to be a tremendous resource and his experience and expertise were invaluable."
Sheldon White was promoted to interim GM after Lewand and Mayhew were dismissed for the remainder of the 2015 season.
"Sheldon has done an exemplary job under less-than-ideal circumstances," Wood said. "We appreciate his professionalism and contributions as our interim GM."
Others considered for the job were New York Giants assistant general manager Kevin Abrams, Seattle co-director of personnel Trent Kirchner and White.
With the Lions reportedly filling their GM opening, other teams still seeking people to fill general manager vacancies include the Tennessee Titans and the Cleveland Browns, who are expected to hire a vice president of player personnel.
Quinn, 39, has worked for the Patriots the past 16 years, and he has been their director of pro personnel since 2012.
Quinn was in the Patriots' draft room with head coach Bill Belichick.
When the Lions hired Wood, they said they wanted a general manager who had been with a winning organization. The Patriots won four Super Bowl during Quinn's time with the team.