Manning aside, Cardinals want Brown back

Rod Graves’ news conference Thursday at the NFL Scouting Combine was a study in selective hearing.

While

national media members were marveling over the Cardinals general

manager’s refusal to close the door on the possibility of signing Peyton

Manning, Arizona media members had their antennae raised by an entirely

different admission.

The Cards want left tackle Levi Brown back, and Graves is optimistic a deal will get done.

“Those

discussions with his agent are ongoing, and I hope to pick up the

intensity of those discussions in the next few days and into next week,”

Graves said. “Obviously, our objective is to try get a deal in place

with him to have him with us for an extended period.”

The 2007

first-round pick (fifth overall) played well over the latter half of

last season, but his career has been marked largely by inconsistency. He

is entering the final year of his contract, which carries a cap hit of

nearly $17 million. The Cards will not pay anything close to his

final-year salary, but they are clearly interested in bringing him back

at a reduced rate.

Whether Brown plays the left side or the right

will depend on the Cardinals’ other personnel decisions, including the

fate of free-agent-to-be right tackle Brandon Keith, who has struggled

with myriad injuries and inconsistency.

“I think Levi has been in

a tough position ever since he was taken with the fifth pick in the

draft,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “There are high expectations for that

position, and obviously there is not the type of evaluation, the

tangible results, that you get from a receiver, running back or

quarterback. So every time a block is missed, ‘Oh, he played horrible.’

“If

you throw the ball 30-something times, it’s going to happen. But, with

all that being said, I think over the last half of our season this past

year, when we needed it the most, Levi played probably his best

football. It was consistent. It was something that was important to our

team, and hopefully that was a point where he is starting to get it from

that standpoint.”

Attempts to reach Brown and his agent were

unsuccessful Thursday, but given Graves’ stated timeline, this situation

will bear watching over the next few days.

As for the Kevin

Kolb-Peyton Manning drama, there was really nothing new in Graves’

statements Thursday, and that makes perfect sense.

Why would

Graves, Whisenhunt or anyone on the Cardinals staff close the door on

the possibility of Manning coming to Arizona until they are able to

evaluate all the moving parts in that complex scenario? The main

objective of the offseason is to improve your team. Until Graves and Co.

have determined that either Manning would not do that or they can’t be

sure he would do that, they should most definitely continue exploring

the Manning option.