When the Cardinals lost safety D.J. Swearinger to free agency after the 2016 season, it was in part because a team like the Washington Redskins were willing to offer a contract the Cardinals would not.
Swearinger played well for the Redskins – until they abruptly cut him Monday, after Swearinger publicly questioned the defensive playcalling of Washington defensive coordinator Greg Manusky in a loss at Tennessee. That opened the door for the Cardinals to give themselves a Christmas present by bringing back Swearinger, claiming him on waivers Tuesday.
To make room on the roster, the Cardinals placed starting left tackle Korey Cunningham (foot) on injured reserve. The Cardinals also released safety Fish Smithson from the practice squad.
The Cardinals, the only three-win team in the NFL after 16 weeks, have top priority on every waiver opportunity. They claimed former Rams receiver Pharoh Cooper last week.
Swearinger is under contract through next season. He is scheduled to make $4.25 million in salary for 2019, plus a $250,000 roster bonus.
Swearinger was voted as a Pro Bowl alternate this season, with a second straight season with four interceptions. But Redskins coach Jay Gruden said this week that Swearinger had been asked multiple times to temper his criticisms of the team and coaches prior to Monday’s move.
“I'm a vocal guy, passionate guy that wants to win,” Swearinger said on 106.7 The Fan, the radio station on which he broke the news of his release Monday and where he had a weekly appearance. “If the coaches feel I'm too smart or a weapon as far as my smarts are concerned ... they’ve got to release the guy that has knowledge or has respect in the locker room, I guess."
The Cardinals had originally signed Swearinger to their practice squad in 2015 after the former second-round pick had been released by Houston and then Tampa Bay. He was promoted a week later, appearing in four games for a team that eventually reached the NFC Championship game.
He started 12 of 16 games for the Cards in 2016, making three interceptions, five tackles for loss and two sacks. The Cardinals decided to let both he and fellow safety Tony Jefferson go to free agency, where both got much larger deals than the Cardinals were willing to offer.
Now, Swearinger returns to Arizona. Baker is at the forefront of the team’s safeties. Antoine Bethea has a year left on his contract, but the third safety starter, Tre Boston, is scheduled to become a free agent after the season.
“I Am So Excited To Go back To The Sunny Desert Arizona Like I Never Left! I'm Baaaaacckkkk!!!!” Swearinger wrote on his Instagram account.