George Iloka and Reggie Nelson: Who’s more valuable?

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Jan 3, 2016; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals free safety Reggie Nelson (20) against the Baltimore Ravens at Paul Brown Stadium. The bengals won 24-16. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 3, 2016; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals free safety Reggie Nelson (20) against the Baltimore Ravens at Paul Brown Stadium. The bengals won 24-16. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports /
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There’s not much debate of whether it’s important for the Bengals to retain George Iloka and Reggie Nelson. But which player is more valuable?

George Iloka or Reggie Nelson? This question has been a focal point of offseason discussion and debates for weeks now, but with free agency right around the corner, let’s look at the two players’ respective values side by side to determine which player is really the more valuable signing.

Reggie Nelson may have seen the better 2015 numbers, but he was quietly fairly vulnerable in coverage, especially over the first few games of the season. Iloka, on the other hand, didn’t force nearly as many turnovers. However, the young safety was easily the better safety in terms of preventing deep passes. Iloka is a harder hitter, and he has much more range than his teammate.

According to Spotrac, Reggie Nelson is looking at a contract with an average annual salary of about $4.8 million. Spotrac predicts Nelson to sign a four year, $19.3 million contract. While a little higher than Cincinnati would want to pay, this seems like a fairly reasonable salary for the safety. If the Bengals could get Nelson to sign a two or three year deal for under $5 million per year, Cincinnati would definitely jump on board and sign Nelson right away.

On the other hand, Spotrac has George Iloka looking at a contract worth $5.6 million annually, a much higher salary. Spotrac predicts Iloka to sign a four year, $22.6 million deal. This seems like a steep price for a safety who couldn’t seem to stay on the field in 2015, but many factors contribute to this. Iloka is younger, he’s one of the most physically gifted safeties in football and he’s one of the most versatile players at his position.

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If these two safeties were to sign the contracts Spotrac projects, George Iloka would easily be the better deal. Cincinnati can definitely afford to pay him (Seattle and Miami pay their strong safeties more than $7 million per season), and Iloka still has plenty of room for growth. Teaming up with Shawn Williams, Iloka could easily become an elite safety and the leader of the Bengals’ defensive backfield for years to come.

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