Bears Urged to Sign Ex-Steelers WR; L.J. Fort Starter Material for Giants: Analyst

L.J. Fort

Justin K. Aller/Getty Images L.J. Fort reacts after a defensive stop against the Cleveland Browns on October 28, 2018.

Training camp is less than a month away, but there are still many “useful” NFL players available via trade or free agency. So says Pro Football Focus analyst Doug Kyed in his new feature on the one move each team should make before camp. PFF’s list includes four ex-Pittsburgh Steelers, including 33-year-old cornerback Joe Haden, who “has offers currently on the table,” according to Kyed, but believes it would be in Pittsburgh’s best interest to re-sign the three-time Pro Bowler.

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WR Emmanuel Sanders to the Bears?

Also still available is wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, 35, who has now played for five different teams but has remained very productive, even into his mid-thirties. Over the course of the last two seasons — with the Saints in 2020 and Bills in 2021 — Sanders caught a total of 103 passes and scored nine touchdowns, nifty production for a receiver who will be entering his 13th NFL season, assuming he continues to play.

Kyed believes that Sanders “would help solidify” Chicago’s wide receiver group for quarterback Justin Fields, who is going to have live up to his draft status (No. 11 overall, 2021) with an assortment of wideouts that looks to be among the weakest in the league.

That may be true, but it’s doubtful that Sanders would choose to sign with Chicago. In February, the SMU product said he might retire so he could spend more time with his family — and that if he continues to play, he wants to join a Super Bowl contender.

“I’m not going to a rebuild. I want to win and I want to be happy,” he said at the time.

If it turns out that Sanders has played his last NFL game, he’ll finish his career with 704 receptions for 9,425 yards and 51 touchdown catches. His best season came with the Broncos in 2014, when he had 101 catches for 1,404 yards and nine TDs. It was one of two seasons in which he has earned Pro Bowl honors, per Pro Football Reference, the other coming in 2016.

LB Joe Schobert to the Commanders?

Meanwhile, Kyed believes that former Steelers linebacker Joe Schobert should link up with the Commanders.

“Washington is counting on a second-year leap from Jamin Davis but would benefit from a veteran presence at linebacker,” writes the PFF analyst, having already noted that Schobert is just two years removed from signing a five-year, $53.75 million contract with the Jaguars.

It’s something of a surprise that Schobert has yet to find a new NFL home. He was released by the Steelers on March 17, 2022, shortly after Pittsburgh signed linebacker Myles Jack. The decision to part ways with the former Browns fourth-round pick was no surprise, as Schobert was set to earn $8.75 million in salary in 2022, and resulted in a relatively modest $1.888 million dead money charge against the cap.

But it’s not like Schobert was unproductive in 2021, a year in which he started 15 games and recorded 112 tackles (70 solo), along with six passes defensed, an interception and a forced fumble, according to PFR.

Thus far, though, he has attracted little interest in free agency, aside from a visit and subsequent minicamp tryout with the New Orleans Saints.

LB L.J. Fort to the Giants?

Finally, there’s former Steelers linebacker L.J. Fort, who thrived with the Baltimore Ravens in 2019-20 after a failed stint with the Eagles. That explains why Kyed believes Fort ought to re-unite with former Ravens defensive coordinator Don ‘Wink’ Martindale, who now holds the same position with the New York Giants.

“Fort could slot in as a starter next to Blake Martinez,” offers the PFF analyst, presuming that the knee he injured last summer won’t hold him back.

Fort played for the Steelers between 2016-18, appearing in 44 games but making just two starts during that time period. He joined the Ravens mid-season in 2019 and was under contract with Baltimore in 2021 but suffered a torn ACL last August and missed the entire year.

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