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Cards Seek Levi's Return

Posted Feb 23, 2012

Tackle needs new deal, but team impressed with late-season play

Coach Ken Whisenhunt addresses the media at the NFL Scouting combine Thursday.

INDIANAPOLIS – The Cardinals want to re-sign defensive end Calais Campbell and have had “fruitful discussions” on that realm, said general manager Rod Graves, but that was no surprise.

And both Graves and coach Ken Whisenhunt reiterated that when it came to the quarterback position, they are expecting a Kevin Kolb/John Skelton competition but aren’t ruling out anything that could still come available. That wasn’t new news either.

The idea the Cards definitely want tackle Levi Brown back, however, did catch the attention as Whisenhunt and Graves spoke at the Scouting combine Thursday. Brown, of course, needs to have his contract adjusted for that to happen – his salary cap number is a staggering $16.9 million for 2012 – but the Cards not only want him back, but back “for an extended period,” Graves said.

“We would love to have Levi back,” Graves said.

Brown has taken his share of criticism over the years after being the fifth overall pick in the 2007 draft. The Cardinals, however, were pleased with his play down the stretch and with fellow starting tackle Brandon Keith also an unrestricted free-agent-to-be bringing back a veteran with 75 starts in his career – including all 64 games the past four seasons – is appealing.

“Every time a block is missed, (it’s) ‘Oh, you played horrible,’ ” Whisenhunt said. “Opportunities in a game, if you throw the ball 30-something times, it’s going to happen.

“With all that being said, over the last half of our season this past year, when we needed it the most, Levi played probably his best football.”

Brown already said at the end of the season he’d like to return to the Cardinals and Graves said that’s the impression he has been left with as well. Without a new deal, however, the Cards will have to release Brown and he will be able to shop himself on the open market.

There is a still a chance Brown could move back to right tackle as well. That will depend on who else is on the roster at the position, but Graves said Brown’s ability to play both sides is valuable.

Graves said the Cards have already looked at the contracts of comparable players across the league and know where they think a new contract should be slotted.

“To me, that’s his number,” Graves said. “If someone else steps in and thinks his value is much greater, then that’s a decision on an individual basis. For us, I have a pretty good idea where his value should be and I am hoping we can get a deal done.”

Brown isn’t the only one the Cards would like to work with contractually before free agency begins March 13. Graves said it was a “priority” the Cards bring back cornerback Richard Marshall.

“He’s not easily replaceable, and it’s not so much in terms what he did on the football field but his character and his work habits are very much appreciated,” Graves said.

Then there is the Campbell situation. Graves called current talks “fruitful,” although no new deal for the burgeoning star is imminent. Graves said he thought a resolution would come soon, and the Cards do have at their disposal the franchise tag to keep Campbell from the free-agent market if a new deal isn’t reached. That would buy the Cards time to get a deal done.

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