Inside linebacker Fort returns to Ravens on one-year deal

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The Ravens brought back one of their lone veteran cuts of the offseason by re-signing inside linebacker L.J. Fort to a one-year deal on Thursday.

Originally scheduled to make $2.25 million in 2021 before Baltimore elected not to exercise his option at the start of free agency last month, Fort agreed to a contract worth $1.1 million with a veteran salary benefit, according to The Athletic. That means Fort will count for just $987,000 on this year’s salary cap.

Despite being the Ravens’ most consistent inside linebacker last season, the 31-year-old was viewed as dispensable after general manager Eric DeCosta selected Patrick Queen and Malik Harrison in the first three rounds of the 2020 draft. The Ravens also re-signed Chris Board to a one-year deal last month, but Fort provides an experienced safety net who was also their best inside linebacker in coverage.

In 14 games last season, the 6-foot, 232-pound linebacker collected a career-best 53 tackles, a forced fumble, two pass breakups, and two fumble recoveries, one of which was returned for a touchdown. Pro Football Focus graded Fort ninth among all qualified off-ball linebackers as he played 36 percent of Baltimore’s defensive snaps (a career-high 381).

A 2012 undrafted free agent from Northern Iowa, Fort was the second Ravens veteran to be let go after former Pro Bowl running back Mark Ingram was released in January. While Ingram signed a one-year deal with the Texans in March, Fort apparently didn’t find much of a market for his services, a common occurrence for veterans with the 2021 salary cap being $15.7 million lower than a year ago because of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.