ASHBURN, Va. -- Let’s accept that the Washington Redskins were set to move on from D.J. Swearinger. The curiosity is why now.
The safety delivered quotable hits about the coaching staff over his 31 games with the team, the kind that clearly rubbed Coach Jay Gruden wrong. The two had several meetings on the matter ahead of not Saturday’s loss at Tennessee and Monday’s stunning transaction.
Salary cap savings and inconsistent tackling go into the eject column for those seeking justification. Those are sidecar rationales.
The Redskins waived a viable player selected as a Pro Bowl alternate with a one year left on his contract with one game remaining before the offseason. Hold tight and wait a few more days, many would suggest. Let emotions from what’s been a challenging few weeks fade before making a decision. They didn’t. The question is why.
The best logic: Send a message. Let the rest of the team know that talking out of school repeatedly won’t be tolerated with this organization.
Gruden didn’t exactly deny the thought during Wednesday’s press conference, his first since Swearinger’s release.
"Well we have talked about our standards here, and I'd like to think we set high standards and goals for our organization and our football players, not just our teammates, our coaches, everybody,” Gruden said. “So yeah, obviously every decision we make and everything that comes out in the media, that’s a separate entity. This one here is its own entity again, and we felt like we had to address it, not just for the player's sake but for the team's sake."
In the short-term, message received. That or players simply became apprehensive over offering an opinion considering Swearinger’s punishment. Several understandably declined interview requests during Wednesday’s open locker room session.
The head coach isn’t afforded the luxury. There are times Gruden stands at the podium tasked with fielding questions perhaps above his pay grade. This wasn’t one of those times. In theory, the coach has final say over the roster, though Gruden said Wednesday, “Any decision we make from a personnel standpoint, bringing people in, cutting people, putting them on IR, it's a group decision.
“We take every decision that we make very seriously. We have lots of talks about it and discussions, and at the end of the day, we're trying to do what's best for this organization moving forward in the long term. Whether I'm here or not, I don’t know. But I know we felt very strongly that this was the right decision."
The decision meant one of his better defensive players no longer calls Redskins Park home.
Swearinger’s new spot is an old one. Arizona, owners of the NFL’s worst record, claimed its former safety Wednesday. No other team had a shot.
“Personality-wise, talking to everybody in the building, everybody in the locker room, they love him,” Cardinals coach Steve Wilks said Wednesday according to the Arizona Republic. “The guys in the locker room were excited to see him because they understand what he brings on and off the field.”
Maybe the 3-12 Cardinals believe Swearinger, who played 20 games for the Cardinals during the 2015-16 seasons, is part of their rebuild plan following this lost season. Perhaps they recognized the asset-grabbing opportunity.
Swearinger counts as a $4.5 million cap hit next season. That’s a tradable commodity, and arguably, the right approach for a team headed to the No. 1 overall selection in the 2019 NFL Draft. Other organizations including the Packers reportedly entered a waiver claim.
For the Redskins, it would appear the message topped the future or possible compensation. They could have kept Swearinger flat out or held him while searching a trade. Arguably, either of those approaches makes the most sense from an asset angle. Washington went another way.
The decision-makers passed on bottling up their beliefs after yet another Swearinger outburst. The uncorked message seems rather clear.
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