Levi Brown is finally a Cardinal after agreeing to a six-year deal.
FLAGSTAFF – It took almost a week of training camp and it will cost him at least seven practices, but Levi Brown is finally a Cardinal.
The team's No. 1 draft pick agreed to a six-year contract Thursday, although now he must play catch-up and prove he is ready to get on the field.
The problem is he has a player in front of him at right tackle on the depth chart – veteran Oliver Ross – who himself has something to prove.
"I probably feel this year the best since I have been here," said Ross, the 2005 free-agent acquisition that has had two disappointing seasons with the Cardinals.
Whether Ross can actually fend off Brown long-term is questionable, no matter how well Ross plays. While the Cardinals declined to comment on the financial details of Brown's contract, it is believed the fifth overall pick in the draft received around $18.1 million in guaranteed money.
For that kind of money – and that high of a pick – Brown will almost certainly start. It's a question of when.
Brown, flying from Virginia to Arizona, won't land in the Valley until late Thursday night and is expected to take his physical in Phoenix Friday morning before driving to Flagstaff. The Cardinals have two practices scheduled for Friday and Brown will likely miss the first one.
Brown will play right tackle, but as he was in the offseason, he is currently with the second unit behind Ross.
"I'm not saying you expect your first-rounder to not be in camp, but it is becoming the norm more and more every year," guard Reggie Wells said. "Obviously, you want to be with the guys one way or the other and you don't want to miss any time so the sooner you get here the better.
"But that is part of the game. He will catch up."
Wells said Brown showed flashes of talent in the offseason work.
"But yeah, he better be ready to go," Wells added with a smile.
Ross, who accepted a $1 million paycut in the offseason that lowered his salary to $1.8 million, insisted he feels he will remain in the lineup over Brown if he does his job. Ross' comfort level with both head coach Ken Whisenhunt and offensive line coach Russ Grimm – who both coached Ross with the Steelers – has restored some of his confidence.
Ross said he feels better, mentally and physically, than either of his previous two seasons in Arizona.
As for the specter of the highly paid rookie behind him, Ross said it can't matter to him.
"It's just there," Ross said. "I just go out and play my best. That's it."
He may have been helped by the delay in Brown's signing. General manager Rod Graves was irritated that Brown's deal wasn't done sometime late Tuesday night given that their offer never substantially changed over the past week.
"I was frustrated by the lengths of these talks, but having said that I am now happy he is on his way," Graves said.
Then again, every first-round pick the Cards have had since 2004 – receiver Larry Fitzgerald, cornerback Antrel Rolle and quarterback Matt Leinart – came in late yet played a significant amount early in the season. Rolle and Fitzgerald were starting by the time the regular season commenced.
"(Levi) showed a lot of athletic ability (in the offseason) and he will be able to contribute," guard Deuce Lutui said. "He wouldn't have been drafted where he was if he couldn't."