OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Five weeks ago, journeyman linebacker L.J. Fort was just learning the defensive playbook after being signed by the Ravens.
He’ll now have a chance to settle in with Baltimore after agreeing to a two-year contract extension worth $5.5 million and $3.25 million fully guaranteed at signing, according to NFL Network. Having just been released by Philadelphia, Fort signed with the Ravens on Sept. 30 and — along with fellow veteran newcomer Josh Bynes — helped stabilized an inside linebacker group that had struggled mightily in the first month of the season.
“He’s played well in everything we’ve asked him to do,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “He’s been out there a lot on defense [in] different packages and special teams as well. He has just proven to be a good player, a good fit for us, and we’re excited to have him going forward.”
In four games (three starts) with the Ravens, the 29-year-old Fort has collected 14 tackles, one sack, and a pass breakup, making an impression that prompted general manager Eric DeCosta to retain him beyond the 2019 season. Bynes and weak-side inside linebacker Patrick Onwuasor are also scheduled to become free agents next March, which could have impacted the timing of Fort’s extension.
An undrafted free agent from Northern Iowa in 2012, Fort has spent time with Cleveland, Denver, Seattle, Cincinnati, New England, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia in his career. In 69 career games, the 6-foot, 232-pound linebacker has collected 99 tackles, four sacks, an interception, and eight pass breakups while mostly serving in a special-teams capacity.
Fort is the fifth pending 2020 free agent to be extended in DeCosta’s first calendar year as general manager, joining guard Marshal Yanda, cornerback Tavon Young, kicker Justin Tucker, and wide receiver Willie Snead.
“It’s a big plus. You think [about] the short term, obviously, and we’ve made some really strong moves. He (Fort) was part of the short-term moves as well,” Harbaugh said. “Obviously, we do a great job thinking about the long term as well. Those are definitely two things that are parallel tracks that you have to be thinking about all the time.”