The Pittsburgh Steelers have lost out on inside linebacker L.J. Fort. Fort signed a three-year, $10 million deal with the Philadelphia Eagles Thursday morning, according to this report from Philly’s NBC Sports Reuben Frank and ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler.
The Eagles signed seven-year veteran LB L.J. Fort, who has played for the Browns, Bengals, Seahawks and Steelers, mainly as a backup and special teamer.
Fort got a $875,000 signing bonus and base salaries of $1.025 million in 2019 and $1.5 million in 2020 and 2021.
— Reuben Frank (@RoobNBCS) March 14, 2019
Steelers ILB L.J. Fort signs a three-year deal with the Eagles that can reach up to $10 million with playing time incentives, according to a source. The deal includes $1.9 million in guarantees. Steelers made efforts to keep him but he had other suitors.
— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) March 14, 2019
As Fowler tweets indicates, he also reported the news earlier in the week, Pittsburgh made an attempt to keep Fort. But he obviously saw a chance for better playing time elsewhere and some pretty good money.
The Steelers always had a weird relationship with Fort and getting him on the field. In 2017, they basically refused to give him a shot, bucking their “next man up” mantra, moving Arthur Moats inside and signing Sean Spence before finally relenting and letting Fort play in sub in the playoff loss to Jacksonville. He didn’t see the field for the first month in 2018, the team giving Jon Bostic every chance, before finally carving out a sub-package role and playing really well.
Pittsburgh signed him as a mid-training camp add in August of 2015. 2018 was his breakout year, picking up 48 tackles, a sack, and fumble recovery touchdown. Fort also served as an excellent and core special teamer, leading the team in snaps there throughout the year. He played 305 snaps on defense and another 333 on special teams.
It leaves inside linebacker depth even thinner and all the more reason to expect that position to be taken very early in the 2019 NFL Draft. Devin White and Devin Bush are the top two names to note.