The veteran safety did not make the final roster in a stunning release. The Bengals now turn to a rookie while Iloka finds a new team.
The Bengals have released veteran safety George Iloka. First reported by Ian Rapoport, this news comes as a surprise to everyone. The 28-year old had been a member of the Bengals since the team drafted him in the sixth round in 2012. He inked a 5-year, $30 million extension following the 2015 season.
According to Rapoport, this is purely a financial move, saving the Bengals about $5 million against the cap the next two years. Iloka was signed through the 2020 season. He will get $900,000 from the team this year and $1,200,000 next season.
Iloka’s play was obviously not the reason he was released. After playing very little in his rookie year, Iloka has started every game he has been healthy for the Bengals since then. Iloka has had more than 70 tackles three times in his career, including a career-high 80 last year. He has 343 tackles and 9 interceptions in his career to this point.
Iloka now hits the free agent market before the season starts. He’s a natural target for any team that needs veteran help in the secondary. He’s especially useful because he can play both free and strong safety. One landing spot in particular for Iloka could be Seattle, who could use a strong safety following Kam Chancellor’s retirement.
The Bengals now turn to rookie Jessie Bates II to start in Iloka’s place. Bates was a second round pick this season, and has been impressive so far in camp. Bates is a very traditional free safety who has rangy athleticism and great spatial awareness.
His release also potentially opens up a roster spot for a young safety. Brandon Wilson, a third heat player out of Houston, has a real chance to make the final team. Trayvon Henderson, a UDFA from Hawaii this season, also may sneak onto the roster. Henderson is a ball hawk who could fit into Teryl Austin’s defensive scheme really well.
This move by the Bengals is a massive shock. Iloka was a core member of the team, and it will be weird to see this season move on without him. Hopefully, the Bengals have a plan for the newfound cap space.