Defensive tackle Alameda Ta'amu (left) and tackle Bradley Sowell (right) have been waiver-wire finds for the Cardinals.
They were just names on the transaction wire, hoped-for additions to the Cardinals assuming a handful of other NFL teams didn't want them.
Now Bradley Sowell is starting at left tackle. Alameda Ta'amu is playing well with his significant time at nose tackle – in fact getting more snaps (22 to 17) than starter Dan Williams did this past weekend.
"It's crazy how we both came in and we're like, 'Let's just make the most of this' and now we're both playing," Ta'amu said.
Neither are stars, and with such a small sample size, it is difficult to predict long-term success. But that hasn't made such waiver
pickups any less rewarding for General Manager Steve Keim, who pointed to a staff which came up with reports of every single guy who played in the NFL preseason.
You can call it a waste of time, but you have watched countless hours of tape and it's paid off, even if it is just two players," Keim said.
It's one of the benefits of having a high draft pick from the year before, the ability to be closer to the front of the line with waiver claims. In both Sowell's and Ta'amu's cases, Keim said the Cardinals had trade discussions with the Colts and Steelers, respectively, before the end of the preseason.
Nothing came to fruition, of course. But Keim saw players who could help. Defensive line coach Brentson Buckner was a coaching intern with the Steelers last season, when Ta'amu was a rookie. Head coach Bruce Arians and offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin were both in Indianapolis last year with Sowell.
"You get a new opportunity," Sowell said. "Not everybody fits everybody's system. You get to a system you fit in, it fits better.
"Once (the Colts) cut me they told me five or six teams were trying to trade for me. I don't feel like the Cardinals were the only ones who wanted me. I was just at the end of the roster by the way it played out."
Ta'amu was in a similar situation, despite being a fourth-round draft pick the year before. He had been in trouble for a DUI and got hurt in Pittsburgh before he ever played a down, and then the Steelers built up enough depth that Ta'amu was expendable.
"With me it was a blessing just to get another chance to play in the NFL," Ta'amu said. "I just kept fighting, trying to put everything behind me. This is a speed bump in the road and I just want to keep going.
"I wish they would have traded for me earlier," Ta'amu added with a smile, "but everything happens for a reason."
The Cardinals didn't know for sure their waiver acquisitions would work out. Scanning possibilities in preseason is limited in scope. Players only have so many snaps, and then it's educated guesswork to figure out which players are going to be available.
In the cases of both Ta'amu and Sowell, the Cardinals saw players at their own positions of need playing for teams with depth at those positions. That's the first domino to fall. In particular, the Cards had good grades on Ta'amu coming out of college, Keim said, which added to the evaluation.
It goes beyond the waiver wire for Keim too. Linebacker Dontay Moch was plucked for the practice squad with a thought they could turn to him this season, and Moch had a key sack in Tampa. New linebacker Marcus Benard, who came to Arizona for a tryout last season without being signed, was brought in last week and played against Carolina.
"I feel like we were prepared," Keim said. "We constantly have a ready list at all positions under all circumstances."