The way Benson Mayowa even reached the NFL was “already crazy,” the veteran defensive end noted, so that the path would continue to be a somewhat twisted one doesn’t matter much.
“Every time you go somewhere new or every time something happens you can’t control, it’s a chip on your shoulder,” Mayowa said as minicamp came to a close last week. “There is always a chip on my shoulder. When you come to a new situation with new coaches, it has to be a boulder.”
As the Cardinals switch to a 4-3 base defense and with starter Markus Golden rehabbing from a torn ACL, the search for depth is paramount as the team enters training camp next month. Mayowa is the lone man on the roster with significant experience beyond Golden and Chandler Jones.
That’s how Mayowa, released in March by Dallas with the Cowboys needing salary cap space, ended up in Arizona. He had a “great dinner” during his free-agent visit, and knew the team had high interest in him. A quick survey of the position’s landscape made it clear he’d have an opportunity in a spot he figured he was best suited.
“I feel like I am the original 4-3 defensive end,” Mayowa said.
He certainly looks the part at 6-foot-5 and 265 pounds, even if it took a minute to get to the league. Stuck on some bad teams at the University of Idaho, Mayowa not only went undrafted but wasn’t even signed until he participated in the 2013 NFL regional (post-draft) combine in Seattle and then the subsequent super regional combine in Dallas.
That led to a contract with the Seahawks, and a brief two-game appearance in 2013. After a release, he hooked on with the Raiders for two seasons, getting two sacks and convincing the Cowboys to sign him to a three-year, $8.25 million offer sheet as a restricted free agent. Dallas was in need at the position because of off-field issues at the position with DeMarcus Lawrence, Randy Gregory and Greg Hardy.
Mayowa came through with six sacks in 2016, but fell off to just one last season as the Cowboys overall slipped. Then came his release.
“The opportunity there, (the Cowboys) controlled it, and it kind of showed,” Mayowa said. “It happens. It happens to most of us. Now that I went through that, I feel like when I get an opportunity, I have to take more of an advantage. Even more than I have done. That was a learning experience.”
Mayowa hopes that opportunity comes now, given that he has the edge in experience from those he is competing against.
Coach Steve Wilks said he felt “pretty comfortable” with the overall depth at defensive line after going over it late in offseason work with defensive line coach Don Johnson. He said he likes Mayowa’s quick first step and bend coming around the edge.
“He showed that at Dallas,” Wilks said. “He’s another guy that can give us that element on third down to get to the passer.”
Proving himself further is just part of the process, Mayowa said. It’s why he makes use of his “boulder.”
“Overcoming all those odds, that’s what I mean by crazy,” Mayowa said. “It’s been a big hill to climb. Me still being here and still having a chance to play ball, it’s a blessing.”