Levi Brown trade needed to happen

October, 2, 2013
10/02/13
1:30
PM ET
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Remember when Arizona coach Bruce Arians called Levi Brown elite?

It happened more than once shortly after Arians arrived in the desert, but that word seems to have disappeared from the new head coach's vocabulary, at least when it comes to Brown. And now, it looks like Brown has disappeared from the Cardinals’ roster.

Per ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter, Arizona finalized a trade Wednesday to send Brown to the Pittsburgh Steelers in exchange for a late-round draft pick. That’s not how elite players usually get sent packing.

Brown
Brown
So this is how Brown’s seven-year (read: tumultuous) tenure with the Cardinals ends?

The Cardinals made the right decision by ridding themselves of Brown, who has been a liability all season. From other reports, the Steelers apparently wanted Brown to replace Mike Adams, who allowed 2.5 sacks in London on Sunday.

That raises this question: Is Brown any better than Adams? If Carson Palmer has shown anything, it’s that he changes as a quarterback after he’s hit, and it was up to Brown to protect Palmer’s blind side. And he didn’t do that all that well, allowing four sacks this season.

Brown’s kryptonite was speed rushers. While some were faster than others, he was seeing one every week in the NFL. His lateral movement isn’t quick enough to keep up with the likes of St. Louis’ Robert Quinn (three sacks against Arizona) and New Orleans’ Junior Galette (one sack). Brown had pedestrian games against Detroit and Tampa Bay, but those teams don’t feature a powerful edge rush. This was an issue that wasn’t going away. The only way to combat it was to load up Brown’s side with help, but that begins eliminating options for the offense. The Cardinals offense has enough of its own issues to worry about.

Brown’s likely replacement is Bradley Sowell, who the Cardinals claimed off waivers Sept. 1. Sowell played for Arians and offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin last season in Indianapolis. In his second season, Sowell’s youth and athleticism can benefit this offensive line, especially against those same speed rushers who plagued Brown. He’s 6-foot-7 and 315 pounds and faced NFL-caliber speed at the University of Mississippi in the SEC.

And he’s cheaper. Brown was slated to make $4.75 million this season while Sowell’s base salary is $480,000.

Brown was hailed as the piece that would help the Cardinals turn a corner under Arians. Last year’s offensive line allowed 58 sacks and struggled to keep any of Arizona’s four quarterbacks off the grass. With Brown back for a right triceps injury that kept him out all of last season, the common belief was he would bring stability to left tackle. But questions began to surface during organized team activities and minicamp when Brown wasn’t progressing at the rate the coaching staff had hoped. He never regained the form that made him a top-five pick in 2007. Actually, he never regained the form that he had before the injury.

His progress during the spring was slow, and Arians began to publicly question Brown’s development. But there was always that caveat: Let’s see what Brown can do in pads. But his progress was equally as stagnant. The beginning of Brown’s end came in the preseason, when San Diego’s Dwight Freeney lined up wide and blew past Brown time and time again.

That’s when this year’s doubts about Brown’s ability to stop the pressure began. Well, the doubts are over. As is his time in Arizona.

Josh Weinfuss

ESPN Arizona Cardinals reporter

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