Well, here’s an interesting development. And by “interesting” I mean “embarrassing.” Former Philadelphia Eagles linebacker L.J. Fort signed a significant contract extension with the Baltimore Ravens on Friday.
The #Ravens have signed LB LJ Fort to a 2-year, surprise extension through 2021 that pays him $5.5M, source said. He gets $3.25M fully guaranteed at signing -- all next year. He was cut 5 weeks ago by the #Eagles and still has $1.9M in guarantees this year. An early payday.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) November 8, 2019
Let’s reset the scene here. The Eagles originally signed Fort to a three-year, $5.5 million contract worth $1.9 million guaranteed back in March. He was actually the Eagles’ third acquisition following the start of free agency, with only Malik Jackson and DeSean Jackson preceding him. Fittingly, Howie Roseman referred to Fort as a “target free agent” during an offseason press conference.
Despite this sentiment, the Eagles were never eager to get Fort on the field. The 29-year-old was clearly behind Nigel Bradham, Kamu Grugier-Hill, Zach Brown, and Nathan Gerry on the depth chart. This much was apparent during training camp practices and further confirmed once the regular season started. Fort played precisely zero defensive snaps prior to being released by the Eagles — in order to open up a roster spot for Orlando Scandrick (!) — after the team’s Week 4 game in Green Bay. Fort’s only playing time came on 75 special teams snaps.
Fort signed with the Ravens just three days after being cut by the Eagles. Through four games (three starts) with Baltimore, Fort has logged 99 defensive snaps in addition to 88 special teams snaps. He’s posted 11 total tackles, three tackles for loss, one sack, one quarterback hit, and one pass defensed so far. Here’s a review of his performance from Baltimore Beatdown:
The Ravens are in the midst of a defensive renaissance over the last several weeks, ever since their poor play on that side of the ball contributed to a shaky 2-2 start. Since then, they’ve made a few tweaks and additions to the roster that if nothing else have really solidified things up front for Wink Martindale’s formerly top unit.
One of those additions was journeyman linebacker L.J. Fort, who many within the Ravens fan base may have not even heard of when he was brought in. Since being plugged into the middle of the D, his solid play is something that can be pointed to as a major factor in this mid-season turnaround.
The optics aren’t great for the Eagles here and there’s blame to share.
Why didn’t the coaching staff get Fort on the field more? It’s not like the Eagles have been getting great production from their linebackers. Doug Pederson and Jim Schwartz admitted as much when they released the aforementioned Zach Brown after the Vikings game.
Why was the front office so quick to cut bait with Fort? They needed a roster spot for a cornerback addition after multiple injuries at that position, sure, but they couldn’t have chosen someone else? Third string tight end Alex Ellis was pretty expendable considering the Eagles waived/injured him days after getting rid of Fort.
It’s worth noting that there was some sense to the Eagles cutting Fort since they were able to preserve a 2020 fourth-round compensatory pick by releasing him. In my view, Fort’s not moving the needle enough for this non-contending team to blow a pick on him. With that said, the Eagles didn’t have to rush to get rid of Fort in September. They had until tomorrow, Saturday, November 9 to cut Fort in order to keep that comp pick. The Eagles could’ve used Fort’s presence with Bradham getting hurt and Brown getting cut.
The Eagles’ handling of the Fort is hardly the end of the world. But it’s just the latest misstep by a team that’s been struggling to get things right. It’s an embarrassing look to cut a player who goes on to play well and gets financially rewarded by his new team just weeks later.