The move comes after the Patriots have dealt with multiple departures at the position this off-season. Superstar tight end Rob Gronkowski announced his retirement in March. The Patriots signed Austin Seferian-Jenkins less than a month later, but released the tight end in June.
Seferian-Jenkins is taking time away from football for personal reasons.
The Patriots also have Ben Watson on the roster. Watson came out of retirement and signed with his former team in May. He is suspended for the first four games of the season.
Detroit is revamping its tight end position. The Lions let Luke Willson and Levine Toilolo walk away in free agency. Detroit also invested the No. 8 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft in former Iowa tight end T.J. Hockenson.
Roberts, 25, had nine catches for 100 yards and three touchdowns in eight games last season for Detroit. He sustained a season-ending shoulder injury, limiting his 2018 campaign.
The fourth-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft had four grabs for 46 yards in 15 games during his rookie campaign. Roberts is listed at 6-foot-5, 265 pounds. He is signed through 2020.
The Patriots face the Lions in their first preseason game at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 8 at Ford Field in Detroit.