This time last year, everyone around the Houston Texans was still getting used to each other, feeling each other out (metaphorically). Rick Smith was learning how to work with Bill O'Brien, Bill O'Brien was weeks removed from assembling a new staff, and fans had no idea what O'Brien was all about quite yet.
A year later, we all know each other a little bit better, so 48 hours away from the 2015 NFL Draft, we shouldn't really have been at all surprised when we saw this tweet come down yesterday from the NFL Network's Ian Rapoport:
Meanwhile, I'm told the #Texans are trying to trade safety DJ Swearinger. He's started 22 games over his first 2 seasons.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) April 28, 2015
If ever there were an indicator that a new, bottom-line/results-oriented sheriff is in town presiding over the roster construction proceedings, it's the possibility (likelihood?) that a second round draft pick halfway through his first contract is on the trade block. There are no scraps in Bill O'Brien's scrapbook.
So, assuming there is truth to this rumor, what could this all mean?
1. It could mean the Texans think that Swearinger has topped out as a player and they want to sell now. After waiting two years for him to gain some level of consistency, it's quite possible that Swearinger "is what he is." And what exactly is that? A highly vocal, energetic but wildly inconsistent box safety, who is a technically unsound tackler. Honestly, if he is still arm tackling two years into his NFL career, do we think he's all of a sudden going to break all of these habits? The Texans might think "no."
2. It could mean that Swearinger's off the field annoyances this offseason are enough for them to punt on him. So during the 2015 offseason, Swearinger has driven off the lot of a car customizer without paying his tab, and his put bull sent Jadeveon Clowney to the hospital after biting into his arm like a pulled pork sandwich. On the surface, neither thing is a really a hanging offense, but the combination of both, along with Swearinger's general "invisible spoon scooping" jackassery on the field might have the team saying "You know what? Maybe an extra fourth round pick isn't so bad." How much off the field chicanery a player can get away with always depends on who the player is. (For the record, J.J. Watt could unleash 100 pitbulls on Clowney and the team would probably name him captain again.)
3. It could mean the Texans are zeroing on Landon Collins. In a handful of recent mock drafts (including the latest one from the Houston Chroncle's John McClain), experts have the Texans taking the Alabama safety with the 16th pick. The thought is that the Texans need another safety, but there's a lot of overlap with what Collins does and what Swearinger is expected to do. So one easy way to alleviate the redundancy? Jettison Swearinger.
Smith was asked about the Swearinger rumors at his annual redraft press conference on Tuesday and had this to say:
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"I understand there is a report out there, but here's the deal. First of all, we make it a practice not to discuss negotiations publically, whether that's with an agent and a player or with another team with respect to trade opportunities. Those kinds of conversations are happening this time of year. There's a lot of information and misinformation out there and a lot of conversations that can be construed or interpreted a certain way. What I will tell you about D.J. (Swearinger) is he's a really good football player for us and he did a nice job last year in a role in our third down packages. He was really, really productive for us and we expect that he will do that again. I think D.J.'s abilities are even such that he can play a little bit more, even in the backend on some of the first and second down stuff. He really found himself a niche last year in some of our sub-packages, but I think he's also capable of doing some other things for us as well."
For his part, Swearinger responded to all the adversity with a random Bible verse...