Days before he could become an unrestricted free agent, Fallon native Josh Mauga avoided the open market and now has a home in the NFL for next season.
The New York Jets signed Mauga to a one-year deal (terms are unknown) after his two-year contract expired. Mauga, who made $540,000 last season, spent the last half of the 2012 season on injured reserve but is expected to be back at full strength when training camp opens in July.
Mauga was unavailable for comment.
With new leadership in the front office, it’s unclear what Mauga’s role will be this season. The Jets severed ties with Pro Bowl inside linebacker Bart Scott, whom Mauga backed up for the last two seasons. If the former Nevada standout can perform well and silence critics about his durability and proneness to injury, he could sneak into the No. 1 position at inside linebacker.
The 2012 season was going well for Mauga before a torn pectoral muscle sidelined him. Mauga played in most third-down situations and was used more frequently in passing situations. After the injury, though, Mauga spent the time off rehabbing and bonding with his family, which welcomed a little girl last month.
Mauga, who wears No. 53, saw his most playing time in 2011 including a road loss to Oakland in front of family and friends. The Jets, however, missed the playoffs for the first time in the Rex Ryan era. A preseason concussion, though, nearly kept Mauga off the field for the season when he collided with fullback John Conner. Mauga avoided being cut — unlike the last injury — and started in his first game one month after the Oakland visit.
Mauga’s professional debut was against the Packers on Halloween in 2010. In 29 games with the Jets, Mauga has posted 27 tackles and one interception on defense and 40 tackles on special teams.
He was a standout three-sport athlete with the Greenwave, excelling on the football field and wrestling mat before hurling the discus and shot put in the spring. He was an all-state honoree in football and the Sertoma all-star football game’s Most Valuable Player. Mauga also collected state titles in wrestling and track before signing to play college ball at Nevada.
With the Wolf Pack, Mauga was one of the better linebackers on the West Coast despite seeing his season end prematurely twice due to injuries.
Mauga couldn’t perform 100 percent at the NFL Combine and went undrafted two months later. The Jets, however, signed Mauga to the practice squad in the summer of 2009 but released him after the preseason because of a back injury he sustained. Mauga, though, was signed again in January 2010 and saw his first action in the regular season, helping the Jets reach the AFC Championship game against Pittsburgh.