Once upon a time, the Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions were equally viewed as championship teams of tomorrow. The dominoes fell correctly for the Cowboys while the Lions never realized the championship potential that some saw in the early 1990s.
Sports Illustrated’s Peter King called Swilling’s arrival in Detroit a “long, strange trip”. It was indeed as the Lions tried to sign Swilling as a restricted free agent in 1992. The Saints matched the offer, which included a no-trade clause.
The Lions ended up trading for Swilling in 1993 by paying an additional $1.4 million to waive the clause that they had put into his contract a year earlier. The Saints received a first and fourth round pick that they would use to select offensive tackle Willie Roaf and fullback Lorenzo Neal; both would go on to be named to multiple Pro Bowl teams.
Pat Swilling’s time in Detroit is one of the mistakes that some point to as a prohibiting factor in the Lions’ inability to get over the proverbial hump and their ultimate miring in mediocrity.