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Report: Detroit Lions will pursue Bengals safety George Iloka in free agency

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The Lions are one team rumored to be interested in George Iloka as NFL free agency inches closer.

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It's looking likely that the Bengals will let George Iloka hit the open market and whether or not they'll be the team to re-sign him once free agency begins is the real question.

Tuesday is the deadline for NFL teams to apply the franchise tag, and Cincinnati has shown nothing to suggest they'll tag any of their players, including Iloka. He's as viable of a candidate for the tag as any Bengal, but it looks like the Bengals are willing to let him hit the market when NFL free agency opens next Monday.

According to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, the Detroit Lions are one team who may pursue Iloka once free agency opens.

One free agent the Lions will make a play for when free agency opens next month is Cincinnati Bengals safety George Iloka. This is the smart move as Iloka is young (25), versatile and a great fit for the Lions' defense. They'll have competition for his services, however, especially if Eric Berry returns to Kansas City.

In 2015, Iloka battled a several minor injuries as he played in 12 games with 35 solo tackles, 12 assisted tackles, four pass defenses and one interception. Over the course of his four-year career with the Bengals, he's had 189 total tackles, 20 passes defensed, five interceptions and two forced fumbles. He was one of the NFL's top safeties as a 16-game starter in 2014, and that's really what's led to the belief that Iloka will command a large contract this offseason.

There's also a report suggesting the Bengals' top two free agent priorities are re-signing Marvin Jones and Adam Jones. It's hard to see Cincinnati being able to re-sign Iloka if he's not their top priority when free agency opens. He's going to be drawing interest from just about any NFL team looking to upgrade the safety position.

If Iloka does end up leaving, then it becomes even more critical that the Bengals re-sign fellow starting safety Reggie Nelson. They can ill-afford to lose both of their starting safeties of the past three years if they want to remain a true championship contender.

It's also very hard to replace the 16 interceptions, 44 pass defenses and 293 total tackles those two combined for over the past two years. That's what the Bengals are losing if both Iloka and Nelson leave, but I wouldn't bet on that happening.