The Pittsburgh Steelers were very hesitant over the course of the past few years to actually get L.J. Fort on the field, defensively, even as he became one of their most indispensable players on special teams. When the lack of athleticism at inside linebacker became overwhelming for them last season, however, they ultimately relented and gave him work.
That work was enough to earn himself a solid three-year contract from the Philadelphia Eagles, which included $1.9 million guaranteed. While he was released in the first half of the season, it wasn’t long before the Baltimore Ravens picked him up and quickly put him into the lineup.
He has done well enough for them, coming out of nowhere, that they took the step in-season to sign him to a two-year contract extension through the 2021 season, which largely replaces the deal that he had with the Ravens. Only this adds another $3.5 million in guaranteed money on top of that, so being let go by Philadelphia actually worked out for him.
Baltimore became desperate for quality play at the inside linebacker position after losing Pro Bowler C.J. Mosley in the offseason. After whiffing in the draft and not coming up with anybody, they ended up trying out second-year Kenny Young to pair alongside the promising Patrick Onwuasor, who hasn’t looked as promising without Mosley next to him.
But not only did Young struggle, he struggled enough to get himself benched. And then the Ravens dealt him to the Los Angeles Rams as part of the trade that brought them Pro Bowl cornerback Marcus Peters. They signed Fort and Josh Bynes off the street, and they have become key pieces in their defense.
Fort was originally signed as a college free agent by the Cleveland Browns back in 2012. He spent time with several other organizations, largely on the practice squad, before the Steelers picked him up in 2015, and he would spend the next four seasons there, seemingly carving out a role.
Yet they never quite gave him enough, to the point where they ended up losing him in free agency. Now he is locked in as a member of the Ravens for the next two and a half years. He made a difference in their first game against the Ravens on special teams.
Baltimore is still figuring out how big of a role he is going to have going forward. He is being rotated in along with Onwuasor and Bynes, who had previously spent time with the Ravens before being signed off the street several weeks ago.
But one thing is clear, and that is that they see more in him than the Steelers did. Pittsburgh instead turned to Mark Barron in free agency and then made a big push to trade up and draft Devin Bush with the 10th-overall pick. They didn’t necessarily need to bring him back, but I think recent events have shown that he is worth more than the Steelers were valuing him at.