He had multiple conversations with Cardinals president Michael Bidwill and coach Bruce Arians about Brown throughout the first four weeks of the season, culminating in a decision to move the former first-round draft pick this week, whether that was by trading or releasing him.
“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 just felt like it was in the organization’s best decision and best interest to move on from Levi. When the opportunity arose with Pittsburgh to make a trade, we jumped at the opportunity.”
Arians said the Brown he watched on tape wasn't the same player he saw during camp. Arians kept referring to Brown’s performance in a 2011 game against New Orleans, but the Cardinals did not play the Saints that year. Brown finished the second half of 2011 on a strong note, earning a contract extension.
Soon after Arians was hired, he used to word “elite” to describe Brown, who missed of all 2012 with a triceps injury. But he first noticed Brown wasn't living up to those lofty expectations on the last day of OTAs this spring.
“I credited that just to a year off,” Arians said. “The tackle [we] got back isn’t the same guy.”
Brown allowed four sacks in four games this season, with three coming in the opener against St. Louis. His vulnerability was defending the speed rush, which exposed Brown’s lack of lateral movement.
Brown's inconsistent play ultimately cost him his job, Keim said, which will go to second-year left tackle Bradley Sowell. Arians and offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin coached Sowell last season in Indianapolis and claimed him off waivers on Sept. 1. Arians and Keim both felt he was simply their best option at left tackle.
“I don’t think there’s any risk because the problems that we’ve incurred, I don’t think would get any worse,” Arians said. “And hopefully they’re going to get better and not just in pass protection but in the run game also.”
Brown’s base salary this season was $4.75 million, and he was scheduled to earn $6 million next season and $5 million in 2015 and ’16. However, the remaining amount of his $7 million signing bonus, reported to be $4.2 million, will go against the Cardinals’ 2014 cap.
Sowell’s base salary this year is $480,000.
The chances of Brown making it through this week as a Cardinal weren’t very high, Keim hinted. Arizona wasn’t going to bench him, and if the Cardinals couldn’t trade him, he would’ve most likely been released.
“I think Bruce and I both agree that, at the end of the day, when you realize that he was not in our long-term plans, instead of belaboring the point and keeping him on our roster, that it was just in the best interest of the organization to move on,” Keim said. “And move on as quickly as possible.”