George Iloka is a key piece of the Cincinnati Bengals’ secondary, and the team would be wise to bring him back.
George Iloka, strong safety
25 years old, 6’4, 225 pounds
Projected contract (Spotrac): 3 yrs, $16,861,424
Agent: BTI Sports Advisors
2015 stats: 47 tackles, two run stuffs, four pass deflections and an interception (12 games)
Of the young defensive backs in Cincinnati’s secondary, George Iloka is far and away the best player. The up-and-comer broke out in 2014, picking off three passes and tallying 10 pass deflections. Iloka doesn’t have flashy numbers, but he rarely gives up deep strikes–and even more rarely allows touchdowns.
Given that the strong safety is the top young player at his position entering free agency, it would be safe to assume that he’s going to command a high salary–although he may not command as much as he could’ve cost at the beginning of the year after a breakout 2014 season. Iloka’s numbers dropped off in his injury-plagued 2015 season, so the Bengals are probably breathing a sigh of relief that the dropoff could lower Iloka’s price.
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Still, Iloka is the top young strong safety on the free agency market. It’s imperative for Cincinnati to lock him up long-term. He’ll probably make somewhere from five to six or seven million dollars per year, and it’s more than likely that the safety will sign a short-term deal in order to earn another big contract when he hits his prime.
Bengals fans might not like hearing this, but Cincinnati may have to cut ties with Reggie Nelson to retain Iloka. While the Bengals certainly don’t want to part ways with their veteran safety–and they wouldn’t split under any less-than-dire circumstances, Iloka is simply a more valuable player than Nelson at this stage of his career.
Signing Iloka is an absolute must for the Bengals. Let’s hope they can get this deal done sooner rather than later.