The Arizona Cardinals' starting left tackle for 12 games in 2013 was told that his future with the team wasn't guaranteed when he signed on Sept. 1, 2013. Now, in the days leading up to free agency, he's watching as the Cardinals try to sign a veteran left tackle to presumably take his starting job.
"I know I'm an undrafted guy," Bradley Sowell said. "I always have to be competing."
"I always keep a positive attitude," Sowell said. "Whenever I first got the spot, [Cardinals general manager] Steve Keim told right me off the top he wasn't promising a spot. He was using me for the time being. He thought I could get better."
But Sowell, who gave up seven sacks last season, isn't closely following the Cardinals' search for a left tackle. It's not consuming his life. He isn't sulking about it. Whomever Arizona brings in -- if it brings in anyone at all -- will have Sowell on his tail from the moment he walks in the locker room.
"I know I'm an undrafted guy," Sowell said. "I always have to be competing.
"It doesn't matter who they bring in. It's a lot of ball, a lot of games, a lot of practices. A lot of things can happen. All I have to do is be prepared if my time is called again."
Arizona signed Sowell after he spent part of 2012 with current Arizona coach Bruce Arians in Indianapolis. Keim was up front with the 24-year-old. The Cardinals liked what they saw out of Sowell, but Keim wasn't handing him the keys to quarterback Carson Palmer's blind side.
And Sowell was perfectly OK with it.
"That's how this business is," Sowell said.
He struggled at times in 2013, but then again, so did the rest of his teammates. Yet once Arizona found its footing offensively, there were many games nobody heard a peep from Sowell. That's how it's supposed to be for an offensive lineman.
Overall, Sowell felt he made a case to be the starter next season, but it's a decision that's not up to him.
"I think I showed some signs of being a good tackle over the years," Sowell said. "I'm just 24 years old, and I have time to grow up. I made an argument that I'm a legitimate player in the NFL."
During their season-recap meeting, Arians told Sowell he thought the tackle battled hard but needed to get stronger. Arians also told Sowell that Arizona liked him, or else Sowell wouldn't still be on the team.
After that meeting, Sowell felt like he could compete with whomever Arizona signs during free agency. The bright side is that regardless of who Arizona signs at left tackle, it's unlikely that Sowell is released. He can play both left and right tackles, giving Arians options at backup.
For the next few weeks, Sowell will keep one ear to the ground. His future as a starting left tackle in the NFL is at stake, but Sowell won't let it consume him. If he's displaced as the starter, he'll be back on the Cardinals' practice fields for OTAs and minicamps working to earn his job back.
Just like he would've if nothing happened.
"I give full effort, and I live with the results," Sowell said. "I don't think I'm the greatest. I don't think I'm the worst. I am a hardworking guy who gives all the effort, and if you do that, you can live with that."