The real news: Cards want Brown back

Feb. 23, 2012

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.

— Craig Morgan