TEMPE, Ariz. — Levi Brown’s Cardinals tenure is over.
The Steelers announced Thursday afternoon that they had traded a conditional pick to the Cardinals for Brown, Arizona’s starting left tackle. The deal was conditional on Brown passing his physical.
Both Cardinals GM Steve Keim and coach Bruce Arians addressed the move Wednesday afternoon.
“I don’t think it comes as any surprise that Levi Brown was not living up to our expectations on the field,” Keim said. “At the end of the day, we felt like it was in the organization’s best interest to move on from Levi. When the opportunity arose with Pittsburgh to make a trade, we jumped at the opportunity.”
On trades completed after June 1, the signing bonus does not accelerate into the current league year, so the Cards will absorb $4.2 million of Brown’s signing bonus on the 2014 salary cap. They’ll also have a new starting left tackle.
Arians confirmed that Bradley Sowell will man that position, with Nate Potter as his backup.
“That’s his opportunity right now to prove to us that come January or February, we don’t need to make that look behind Door No. 2,” Arians said. “I don’t think there’s any risk. The problems that have occurred I don’t think could get any worse. Hopefully, they’re going to get better.”
Sowell (6-7, 315 pounds) was signed originally by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as an undrafted free agent out of Mississippi and eventually signed off their practice squad by the Indianapolis Colts. He played 10 games for the Colts in 2012, all in a backup role, where Arians coached last season. He played a total of 60 offensive snaps in the regular season and another 75 during the Colts’ playoff game. He played right tackle and, for seven snaps in Week 12, left guard.
“Obviously, I’m really comfortable with the offense. I was in it last year,” Sowell said. “It’s a big opportunity for me. I want to take advantage of it.”
Sowell will get his first test against Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy, an Ole Miss teammate for three years.
“I’ve been trying to text him,” Sowell joked. “I said ‘(let me) keep my job for at least one week.'”
It’s odd timing that the Cards would trade Brown in the same week in which Keim said on his radio show that Brown played his best game of the season. It also calls into question why Arians repeatedly called Brown “elite” during OTAs, minicamp and training camp, despite obvious evidence to the contrary.
Arians said he used a game from 2011 against the Saints (they actually played the Saints in 2010) as evaluation of Brown.
“The tackle that we evaluated in 2011 against the Saints was a heck of a left tackle,” Arians said. “The tackle that got back isn’t the same guy.”
It was likely the Cards would have cut Brown next season, so by trading him, they at least got a draft pick in return while saving money and perhaps sending a message to the rest of the under-performing offense.
Steelers left tackle Mike Adams has struggled mightily this season, and reports on Wednesday had him being replaced by Kelvin Beachum. Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been sacked 15 times already this season, the second most of any QB behind Miami’s Ryan Tannehill.
The Cardinals selected Brown with the fifth pick in the 2007 NFL Draft. At times he played some good ball, even being named a Pro Bowl alternate in 2009. But he never lived up to the hype or the promise of his draft status, whether he was playing the right side or the left. He was also constantly reminded that he had been drafted ahead of Vikings running back Adrian Peterson.
Brown was due to collect $6 million in salary next season ($7.65 million cap hit) and is still due $3.6 million this season.