The Ravens announced Nov. 8 that they have signed inside linebacker L.J. Fort to a two-year contract extension, rewarding one of the key additions in the midseason makeover of their defense.
Fort, 29, was signed by the Ravens Sept. 30, just days after being released by the Philadelphia Eagles and one day after the Ravens suffered a 40-25 loss to the Cleveland Browns. The addition of Fort and Josh Bynes — signed Oct. 2 — helped to stabilize an inside linebacker group that had struggled, especially against the run, during the Ravens’ 2-2 start.
In four games with the Ravens this season, Fort has totaled 11 tackles and one sack on defense and two tackles on special teams, where he has been a key contributor. He has started the past three games, equaling the number of starts in his first six NFL seasons.
Before joining the Eagles this past summer, Fort (6-foot, 232 pounds) played the three previous seasons for the Pittsburgh Steelers, recording a career-high 43 tackles last season. He began his career in 2012 with the Cleveland Browns as an undrafted rookie out of Northern Iowa and played for the Seattle Seahawks in 2014. He briefly played with the Denver Broncos, Cincinnati Bengals and New England Patriots as a practice squad or training camp player before finding a home in Pittsburgh.
Fort and Bynes were signed by the Ravens to upgrade a run defense that yielded 140 yards to the Kansas City Chiefs and 193 yards to the Cleveland Browns in back-to-back losses that dropped the Ravens to 2-2 after the first month of the season.
The Ravens yielded more than 500 yards of total offense in both of those games, the first time in franchise history that has happened.
Since then, the Ravens added Fort, Bynes and defensive end Jihad Ward as free agents and traded for cornerback Marcus Peters. All four have made significant contributions.
Since that loss to the Browns, the Ravens (6-2) have won four in a row and have allowed an average of 73 rushing yards a game. During the winning streak, the Ravens’ defense has improved from 27th to 15th overall and from 10th to 2nd against the run.
The Ravens visit the winless Cincinnati Bengals (0-8) Nov. 10.
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