Cardinals defensive tackle Josh Mauro listens to defensive line coach Brentson Buckner at a recent practice.
Like Calais Campbell, Josh Mauro was a free agent this offseason.
Mauro was restricted, unlike the unrestricted and soon-to-be-rich Campbell, who signed with Jacksonville. Like Campbell, Mauro was a key part of a defensive line that finished second in the NFL in team defense. Unlike Campbell, few outside Arizona – and many within, to be honest – know little about Mauro.
Mauro's statistics won't jump at anyone. His coaches do not care, knowing what Mauro does for the Cardinals.
"It's bigger than you," said Mauro, whom the Cardinals plucked off the Steelers practice squad in his rookie 2014 season. "It's bigger than you making plays, it's bigger than getting your name called, it's bigger than the newspaper having your numbers."
Mauro isn't one of the ones replacing the departed Campbell because Mauro already was a starter – 13 times in 15 games
last season. He did not record a sack, yet anytime his name comes up, the compliments flow.
"He's not under my radar," coach Bruce Arians said. "He might be under the national radar with those who say we don't have a defensive line. Josh has been as good a player as we've had on the defensive line, as consistent.
"When he's in the game, I never look his way because his job is getting done."
From the time he arrived in mid-November of 2014, Mauro earned trust. Grabbed from the Steelers on a Friday, a week later he was starting in Seattle and impressing. Playing along the line in a base 3-4 defense – something Mauro has done since his days at Stanford – being the guy who holds up blockers so others can make plays is in the job description.
"We're in the age if you don't have 35 sacks, if you ain't doing all this or that, you're not a good football player," defensive line coach Brentson Buckner said. "Put on the film. We signed Josh and every time he touched the field, he's produced. Not in the tackles maybe but he's made someone's job easier, he's made us better on defense."
Arians said Mauro and linebacker Markus Golden "play harder than anyone we have." Mauro's eyes light up when talking about playing the game itself, the passion each play and those "five to seven seconds when you don't think about anything,
you just go."
The two-year contract he signed in the spring isn't for major dollars, relatively speaking. But Buckner praised Mauro's traits of being physical, tough and a refusal to be blocked. Mauro was built to be a three-down lineman, Buckner added, and "it's time for him to take his rightful place."
Will that result in suddenly gaudy stats? Probably not. Mauro is convinced that those who know football appreciate what he does, and notes that there have been similar players – Pittsburgh's Casey Hampton, Baltimore's Brandon Williams – who have gotten nice deals.
"Am I going to sit here and tell you sacks don't matter when it comes to (contracts?)" Mauro said. "No. Those are money-makers. But as far as longevity, if you just chase the big payday, you're probably going to weed yourself out.
"The plays will come. You don't need to chase them. If you go deep in the playoffs, if you go to the Super Bowl, everyone gets paid."
Mauro believes that can happen, both for his team and for himself.
"I just have a quiet confidence in myself," Mauro said. "What you put on tape, that's your résumé. It doesn't matter what I say I do as a player. All that matters is what I put on that tape."
Images of the new team following a week of auditions