TEMPE, Ariz. – Not long after becoming the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals, Bruce Arians proclaimed Levi Brown to be an “elite” left tackle.
It was a bold statement about a player whose career had been marked by struggles and a sense of underachievement, but one the first-year coach stood behind.
Wednesday, the Cardinals traded Brown to the Pittsburgh Steelers for a conditional draft pick.
“I don’t think it comes as any surprise that Levi Brown was not living up to our expectations on the field,” Cardinals GM Steve Keim said when announcing the trade. “Bruce and I, Michael Bidwill, we’ve had multiple conversations since Week 1 about potentially making a move.
“And at the end of the day, we just felt like it was in the organization’s best decision and best interests to move on from Levi.”
Brown struggled mightily in the season’s first week, allowing three sacks to St. Louis Rams defensive end Robert Quinn. He had allowed just one sack over the next three games, though, and did not seem to be playing particularly poorly.
But while Keim said he wished Brown nothing but the best as he heads to his new team, he pointed out that the team jumped at the opportunity when the trade proposal came up.
Because as the first-year GM explained, it had been decided that Brown was no longer part of the team’s future, which made him expendable for the present.
In Brown’s place will step Bradley Sowell, a second-year pro who went undrafted out of Ole Miss in 2012 but played for Arians and offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin last season in Indianapolis.
Though Brown has certainly had his struggles, it would seem to be a bit risky to move on from the 29-year-old in favor of an untested 24-year-old. However, neither Keim nor Arians view the move as much of a risk.
“I don’t think there’s going to be a drop,” Keim said of the level in play. “I think it’s going to either be maintained or it’s going to potentially have some growth in that area.
“Levi was playing so inconsistent that I think Bradley can step in and play at least to that level, if not better.”
Added Arians, “I don’t see any drop off whatsoever, or we wouldn’t have made the move.”
That would have to be it, because other than whatever cap savings the move provides, the benefit to parting with Brown would appear to lie only in parting with Brown.
How he went from the team’s starting left tackle to a player the team would be better off not having around seems like a pretty quick fall from grace, though it could be reasoned that Brown’s struggles had him on thin ice for a while.
Yet, Arians was certainly disappointed that the former first-round pick did not develop into the left tackle he had expected. Saying the player he saw on tape was worthy of being called “elite,” the coach, who did not want to speculate on why Brown struggled, admitted he did not look as good in person.
“Once we started working together with all the offensive line coaches that we have, it just wasn’t working out,” he said.