On Thursday the Baltimore Ravens announced that they have re-signed former Pittsburgh Steelers and Philadelphia Eagles linebacker L.J. Fort to a one-year contract. Notably, the Ravens had Fort under their control for 2021 until ten days ago, but Baltimore declined to pick up its option on Fort’s contract for 2021, making him an unrestricted free agent. That move saved the Ravens $2.25 million in salary cap space, but at the time of Fort’s release Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic noted that the Ravens might bring him back.
The Ravens haven't officially announced ILB L.J. Fort's release, but he's listed as a free agent on the list that the NFL issued. So it's apparently official. Ravens create $2.25 million of cap space. Door not closed on Fort's return, but he should find interest elsewhere.
— Jeff Zrebiec (@jeffzrebiec) March 17, 2021
So while terms of Fort’s contract have not yet been revealed, one assumes that he’s going to be paid less than he would have earned on his previous deal. Regardless, it ends any speculation that Fort might return to the Steelers as an inexpensive replacement for inside linebacker Vince Williams, who had his contract terminated by the Steelers two weeks ago.
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L.J. Fort’s Career Journey
Fort entered the NFL in 2012 when he was signed by the Cleveland Browns as an undrafted free agent out of Northern Iowa. He went on to spend time with the Denver Broncos, Seattle Seahawks, Cincinnati Bengals and New England Patriots before he finally found a home with the Steelers beginning in the summer of 2015.
He went on to play in 44 games with the Steelers, during which he was credited with 63 total tackles (50 solo), with seven quarterback hits, two sacks, four passes defensed and a fumble that he recovered for a touchdown against the Atlanta Falcons.
In 2019 he left the Steelers in free agency, inking a three-year, $5.5 million contract with the Philadelphia Eagles. But the Eagles cut him after just four games—before he had played a single defensive snap—which allowed the Ravens to snap him up.
Fort was with Baltimore for just four weeks before the Ravens signed him to a two-year, $5.5 million contract extension, one designed to take him through the 2021 season.
Yet in a year in which the salary cap has declined to $182.5 million, the Ravens took the risk of losing Fort in free agency to save on salary and salary cap space. Never mind that Fort produced a career high in tackles in 2020 (53) and also had two fumble recoveries (including one returned for a touchdown against the Houston Texans). It’s also worth noting that he was able to retain significant playing time, in spite of the fact that the Ravens drafted a pair of inside linebackers in the first and third rounds of the 2020 Draft, those being Patrick Queen and Malik Harrison, respectively.
L.J. Fort’s Career Numbers
All in all, Fort has appeared in 91 NFL games with 19 starts and has amassed 191 total tackles (117 solo). He has also recorded one interception, one forced fumble, three fumble recoveries, five sacks and 10 passes defensed, plus 12 tackles for loss and 12 quarterback hits.
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