In Saturday’s preseason win over the Panthers, Ravens’ linebacker L.J. Fort suffered a torn ACL and will be absent for the entire 2021 season. Fort was a valuable contributor and leader on both defense and special teams for the Ravens.
It remains to be seen how the team fills his void at the linebacker position. Fort started 16 games for the Ravens over the past two seasons. He was set to be the No. 3 in the linebacker rotation alongside Patrick Queen and Malik Harrison this season.
There are in-house options to replace his snaps, namely Chris Board but also Kristian Welch or Otara Alaka. However, the Ravens could also look to the free agent market to add another linebacker to the mix.
Here are a few available options if they choose this route —
One of the more surprising developments of free agency is the status of K.J. Wright, who remains unsigned just weeks away from the regular season. Wright has been with the Seahawks since 2011, where’s started 140 of 144 games and been a high-level contributor.
Many expected him to re-sign with Seattle this offseason but there has been little traction on that front. Wright visited with the Raiders a couple of weeks ago. He’s long been one of the better inside linebackers in the NFL and in 2020, even at the age of 31, he recorded 86 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, two sacks and recovered two fumbles.
Wright appears to have plenty of gas left in the tank; he’d replace the pedigree and leadership lost by Fort while providing an on-field upgrade. He’d likely have to settle for taking less money and playing time in Baltimore than he could have elsewhere, much like Justin Houston did a few weeks ago.
After signing a one-year deal with the Jets last offseason, leaving Baltimore in the process, Patrick Onwuasor is back on the free agent market. He appeared in just one game for New York last season as he struggled with injuries, and the Jets opted not to pursue re-signing him.
Onwuasor started 32 games with Ravens and is still only 29 years old. He’s not the player K.J. Wright is, but he’s familiar with the organization, coaching staff and defensive scheme in Baltimore. “Peanut” could likely step back into a rotational role at inside linebacker without missing a beat.
He logged a number of special teams snaps early in his career, too, so he possesses some of the defense/special teams versatility that Fort brought to the table.
Another veteran option is Avery Williamson. Williamson, 29, was acquired by the Steelers in the middle of last season after Devin Bush suffered a torn ACL. Prior to that, he played four seasons with the Titans and one-and-a-half seasons with the Jets, drawing over 80 starts.
In eight games with the Steelers in 2020, Williamson started four games and recorded over 50 tackles and a sack. However, he’s remained unsigned throughout this offseason but the door could now be open for him to remain in the AFC North via the Ravens.
For his career, Williamson has not been great in coverage but is a strong run defender. He has several years worth of starting experience under his belt and could perform at a high level in a more reduced, rotational role alongside Queen and Harrison.
Should the Ravens sign a free agent linebacker?
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