The Seahawks have signed free agent linebacker Khairi Fortt (pronounced ky-REE), and have released rookie linebacker Christian French to make room. French was released with an injury designation so if he clears waivers he will be added to the Seahawks' injured reserve list.
Fortt has played for the Bengals and Jaguars, and was drafted by the Saints in the 4th round of the 2014 draft. He's a height-weight-speed prospect with some upside but hasn't really shown much on the field as of yet.
Khairi Fortt from Cal. Pretty decent marks: 6'2"/248, 4.68s, 1.66 split, 30 bench, 36" vert, 10'00" broad, 4.35 ss, 7.12 cone.— Jared Stanger (@JaredStanger) May 16, 2016
He played in three games for the Jags, so we don't have a lot to go on. With his size, he could be a natural fit in the Seahawks' strongside linebackers group, though the reports on him prior to the draft had him possibly playing on the weakside. Watch for where Seattle first tries using him.
CBSSports.com's Derek Stephens (who has also written here at Field Gulls) gave this scouting report back in February of 2014:
STRENGTHS: Lean, muscular frame with long arms. Demonstrates early recognition against the run, and an explosive first step downhill. Gets up to speed rapidly and has top-end speed to run down plays to the opposite side, when scraping. Extremely fluid and explosive when moving laterally, as he's able to keep his hips squared to the line of scrimmage and still cut off runs to the outside edge.
Shows good gap discipline and patience to allow the play to develop before committing. Approaches blockers with aggression, demonstrating good extension and strong pop to jar his opponent and remain disengaged. Maintains an eye on the backfield while meandering through contact and takes good angles in the box to cut off running lanes. Demonstrates nimble feet to maintain footing when combatting cut-blocks.
Exhibits fluid backpedal when asked to drop into coverage, and has the quick hips to turn and run with receivers and tight ends vertically. Tracks the ball well over his shoulder and shows good timing to attack the throw at the high point. Elite acceleration and second gear to chase down speedy ballcarriers, even 20-30 yards down the field. Does a good job of getting low, establishing width and wrapping up his target in the hole.
Flashes some pass-rush ability from a three-point stance coming off the edge with an explosive jump and flexibility to round the corner.
WEAKNESSES: Approaches blockers high at times and lacks the lower-half strength to correct, reset and hold ground. Lowers his head as a tackler in the hole and will whiff at times when he does so. Takes aggressive angles to the outside, and will find himself behind the play occasionally as a result. Tends to freeze at times when dropping into zone, as he'll lock onto the quarterback and seemingly lose awareness of what's going on around him.
Will throw himself at ballcarries when in space and pursuing from off angles, seeming more concerned with the big hit than finishing the play. Despite his aggression and ability to play through contact, was not a big finisher behind the line of scrimmage while at Cal.
COMPARES TO: Zaviar Gooden, Outside Linebacker, Tennessee Titans - Fortt's "plus" athleticism and sideline-to-sideline range are similar to those of Gooden, a 2013 third-round selection of the Titans. However, Fortt's ability to shed blocks and be a consistent contributor between the tackles should present him as a more versatile prospect than Gooden, who was viewed more as a run-and-hit 'backer that needed more space for his impact to be maximized.
Here's what Nolan Nawrocki said about Fortt in the 2014 pre-draft process.
STRENGTHS Good size with a muscular build. Field fast -- moves like a safety. Very athletic and agile. Plays on his feet and bends naturally. Excellent lateral agility -- flows smoothly and has sideline-to-sideline range. Uses his arms like flippers to play off blocks. Loose-hipped to drop into coverage and match with backs and tight ends. Has traits to excel on special teams. Bench-pressed 225 pounds 30 times, tied for most among linebackers at the combine.
WEAKNESSES Frame is nearly maxed out. Very average key-and-diagnose skills slow his play speed. Does not always trust what he sees -- takes false steps and hesitates to trigger. Inconsistent run fits and field leverage. Can be stronger at the point of attack. Did not make enough splash plays. Has underachiever traits. Motivation and durability should be looked into.
DRAFT PROJECTION Rounds 4-5
BOTTOM LINE A better athlete than football player at this stage of his development, Fortt transferred from Penn State and played only one season at Cal before making a premature jump to the NFL. Speedy, finesse, see-and-go reactor who looks the part and has intriguing, starter-caliber athleticism to fit on the weak side in a fast-flowing 4-3 where he's freed up to chase the ball. Must sharpen his eyes and instincts to reach his potential.
We'll see how he does. This is a pretty interesting factoid, by the way:
Seahawks now have more 2014 #Saints draft picks (Stanley Jean-Baptiste, Khairi Fortt) than the Saints do (Brandin Cooks).— Evan Woodbery (@TheSaintsBeat) May 16, 2016