Philadelphia Eagles: Don’t forget about L.J. Fort just yet

(Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
(Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images) /

While the addition of Zach Brown may ultimately limit his ceiling with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2019, don’t forget about L.J. Fort just yet.

The Philadelphia Eagles are in a weird spot at linebacker.

In theory, the team has the best 1-3 punch at the position they’ve had in years, with late free-agent addition Zach Brown filling out the starting three alongside incumbent starters Kamu Grugier-Hill and Nigel Bradham, but even the most prepared squad can’t account for a rash string of injuries.

And boy have the Eagles been subjected to a string of injuries.

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With Bradham sidelined for the remainder of the preseason with a hand injury, and KGH a big ole question mark for the first month of the season after suffering a Grade-3 MCL Strain, the Birds have been forced to rely on 2017 fifth round safety-turned-linebacker Nathan Gerry as their starting weakside linebacker in their preseason debut against the Tennessee Titans.

Obviously, that is not ideal.

But what if I were to tell you that there is another linebacker who could help to “bridge” the gap until  Jim Schwartz‘s linebacking corp returns to full strength: L.J. Fort.

While he may not be a household name – and after spending the last three seasons as a subpackage reserve on the Pittsburgh Steelers why would he be – Howie Roseman actually signed Fort before Brown with the hopes of having him become a more consistent contributor alongside Bradham and Grugier-Hill.

Roseman was so confident that Fort was a great fit in Schwartz’s system that he not only allowed longtime middle linebacker Jordan Hicks to walk in free agency, but he did so without making another signing at the position – at least until Brown was waived by Washington on March 13th.

Sure, the addition of Zach Brown may ultimately limit his ceiling with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2019, but don’t forget about L.J. Fort just yet.

While Brown may possess the prototypical traits of a modern-day NFL middle linebacker – even if he’s being listed as an outside linebacker on the Birds’ first depth chart – Fort is a plus athletic for his position and retains solid thumpability despite weighing at a sprightly (for a linebacker) 232 pounds.

That athleticism was on full display in the Eagles’ first preseason game, as Fort flew around the field as the team’s second team weakside linebacker – looking eerily similar to Jordan Hicks in more ways than just his number 58 jersey.

With the final two seasons of his three-year, $5.5 million deal effectively linked to a team option, strong performances in the preseason will go a long way to Fort earning a long-term role on this team for the remainder of his prime, returning to the open market at the tender age of 32.

In a lot of ways, that’s the beauty of Fort’s contract: His cap hit isn’t that much higher than that of linebacker-in-name-only special teamers LaRoy Reynolds and D.J. Alexander last season.

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As things presently stand, L.J. Fort looks like the Philadelphia Eagles’ fourth best linebacker and could be one of the team’s top special teams performers in 2019. While he may not be in line for a star-making season in 2019, adding an under-the-radar lunch pail performer like Fort is paramount when building a championship caliber team.