What a long, strange trip Pat Swilling (right) has had in going from New Orleans to Detroit. In March 1992, after his contract with the Saints expired, Swilling, New Orleans' All-Pro outside linebacker and the '91 defensive player of the year, was wooed by the Lions, who signed him to a three-year, $5,375 million offer sheet. The Lions thought they had made their offer match-proof by including a no-trade clause, but the Saints fooled them—meeting all the terms, right down to the no-trade provision. Swilling stayed in New Orleans and had 10½ sacks last season, down from his league-leading 17 in '91. Last week Detroit offered the Saints a first-and a fourth-round draft pick for Swilling, and New Orleans went for the deal. The only problem: that no-trade clause. In February, Swilling and his wife, Robin, who is from New Orleans, had begun building their dream house there, and they said they wouldn't move—unless the Lions ponied up some big money to buy out that pesky no-trade clause. In the end Detroit had to pay Swilling $1.4 million to persuade him to waive the very clause it had inserted into that offer sheet.

Bill Parcells, the new coach of the Patriots, got more offers and feelers for the No. 1 pick in the draft than he could keep track of. But the most remarkable one came last Saturday, when the 49ers called. "If we give you our entire draft," said San Francisco president Carmen Policy, "would you give us your top two picks?" Parcells considered it: 10 picks—including the 18th and 27th in a talent-rich first round—for the first and 31st selections in the draft. "We would have cannibalized our entire draft just to get their top picks," said Policy. That would have left New England with 17 choices, eight of them among the first 100. And the 49ers, who did not plan to make a selection with the first choice, could have traded down several times to build a cache of first-and second-round picks. But Parcells couldn't bring himself to make the deal. He needed a quarterback to build around, and he felt he might not get one as good as Drew Bledsoe in the next couple of drafts.

Cleveland is taking a big chance with the moody, weighty Jerry Ball, the nose-tackle cum clubhouse lawyer whom the Browns acquired from Detroit for a third-round pick. "We're going to miss his advice and counsel," deadpanned Lion owner William Clay Ford. "I don't know how we'll survive."...Notre Dame, which finished the '92 season 10-1-1 and ranked No. 4, had four players taken in the first round (and six among the top 45), while 11-1 Miami, which ended up No. 3, came up empty in Round 1, and had no player selected until Detroit made cornerback Ryan McNeil the 33rd choice. Notre Dame's four first-rounders were the most for any school since five players from USC went in the first round in 1968. With such a strong class, how could the Irish have not won the national title? "I've never coached, so I couldn't tell you why," says Denver director of football operations Bob Ferguson. "But the Irish have the Vatican behind them. They should win."