According to a report from NFL.com’s Jason La Canfora on Sunday, Arizona Cardinals LT Levi Brown will probably hit the open market, and allow teams desperate for offensive line help (like the Falcons) to sign him. La Canfora reports that Brown and the Cardinals have not made a tremendous amount of headway on a new contract, and it appears that he will almost certainly test the waters of free-agency.
This makes a lot of sense. The Cardinals recently used their non-exclusive franchise tag on defensive tackle Calais Campbell, which means they cannot prevent Brown from becoming a free-agent. In addition, Brown has a year left on his contract and is supposed to cost $17 million against the salary cap in 2012, which is a monumental sum. It would appear that his release would be imminent.
Levi Brown is not an elite LT. He has not lived up to the billing that he had coming out of school in 2007 and was the 5th overall pick by Arizona. He performed poorly in his first couple seasons. However, in the last couple seasons he has performed admirably at LT keeping the blind-side of the quarterback safe. He is a legitimate LT, and could prove to be an asset for the Falcons.
Like I said before, Brown is not elite. But would he be an upgrade over Will Svitek? Yes. And compared to Sam Baker he would be considered a fantastic protector. He might not grade out as highly as Demetrius Bell of the Bills or Marcus McNeill of the Chargers (both players who are expected to hit the quickly approaching FA market). However, he does not present the injury risk that both Bell and McNeill do. While it might make business sense to take a flyer on a player with more upside like Bell or McNeill, Brown is a healthy and fairly proven commodity. One thing is sure–Protecting Matt Ryan’s blindside is of the utmost importance. Atlanta MUST upgrade at the position. The Falcons have one of two options: upgrade the left tackle position and move forward, or do nothing and watch a potential disaster unfold.