D.J. Swearinger Claimed by Cardinals off Waivers After Redskins Release

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistDecember 25, 2018

FILE - In this  Sunday, Dec. 9, 2018 file photo, Washington Redskins free safety D.J. Swearinger sits on the bench in the fourth quarter of an NFL football game against the New York Giants in Landover, Md. The Washington Redskins have lost four in a row, are down to their fourth quarterback and are mired in criticism from several players. A once-promising season has gone off the rails thanks to injuries all over the offense and a defense full of blown assignments and missed tackles. The finger-pointing is well underway for a team that has fallen to 6-7 and has plenty of blame to go around. (AP Photo/Mark Tenally, File)
Mark Tenally/Associated Press

The Arizona Cardinals brought back a talented piece to their secondary Tuesday when they claimed safety D.J. Swearinger off waivers.

Swearinger posted on Instagram he is "so excited to go back to the sunny desert Arizona like I never left!!"

Per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, Washington paid most of Swearinger's salary, and he is owed $4.5 million next season.

The 27-year-old was only available because Washington released him after he criticized defensive coordinator Greg Manusky following a Week 16 loss to the Tennessee Titans. The safety appeared on 106.7 The Fan and confirmed as much. 

Manusky drew Swearinger's ire following the loss to the Titans because there was a disconnect regarding how aggressive the defense was and the lack of zone coverage when Blaine Gabbert took over at quarterback after Marcus Mariota left with injury.

"We are our best on defense when we look at the quarterback," Swearinger said, per Kareem Copeland of the Washington Post. "When you go one-high on a backup quarterback, that's easy, man. They're going to go back side every time."

Washington cornerback Fabian Moreau was penalized on a critical third down late in the game, and Swearinger blamed Manusky for the call: 

"That's a bad call. I feel like that was a horrible call. You don't put Fabian in that situation with a backup quarterback. … But I feel like, man, if we look at the quarterback, with all this talent we got in the back end, we could dominate every team every week. I'm not the D-coordinator, but we didn't make the plays. I guess we didn't make the plays. And there's plenty of plays out there to make."

He continued, criticizing the coordinator for not "trying to get your players involved" and blitzing more in the loss.

Head coach Jay Gruden told reporters he was "quite disappointed" Swearinger didn't "keep our business within these walls."

Les Carpenter of the Washington Post noted the fact the coach had discussed publicly criticizing coaches and teammates with Swearinger in the past was "what seemed to bother Gruden the most."

Carpenter pointed out "Swearinger has had troubles with coaches throughout his career," including when he said Houston Texans head coach Bill O'Brien criticized him to other teams after he was no longer with the AFC South side's squad.

Despite the previous issues with coaches, the South Carolina product is a talented veteran who was named a Pro Bowl alternate in 2018 for his efforts with Washington. He started the first 15 games prior to his release, tallying 53 tackles and four picks.

He entered the league in 2013 when Houston selected him with a second-round pick. He has played for the Texans, Arizona Cardinals, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Washington throughout his career and has 14 interceptions in six seasons.

Of those 14 picks, 11 came the last three years while playing for Arizona and Washington, suggesting he is playing his best football as he hits his prime. Swearinger figures to have plenty of impressive seasons ahead given his recent play.

He is a ball hawk and hard-hitting safety who can lend support to the run and break up passes across the middle with his physicality.

Ideally for the Cardinals, Swearinger will utilize those talents to help them finish 2018 on a high note before the franchise retools in an attempt to make a playoff push next season.

Even though Swearinger is returning to Arizona under a different coaching staff, he has a comfort level with the organization after playing parts of two seasons there in 2015-16. The 27-year-old appeared in 20 games with the Cardinals, recording eight passes defensed and three interceptions in 2016.