clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

NFL Free Agency 2016: Vikings reportedly interested in Bengals safety George Iloka

New, comments

According to recent reports, George Iloka could be a potential target for the Vikings' free agency plans. Here's all the information that we have so far.

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

One of the Bengals' key players set to hit free agency is safety George Iloka and reports are already in the works regarding where Iloka could land in 2016. Mike Zimmer, current Vikings head coach and former Bengals defensive coordinator has been reportedly linked to being interested in Iloka.

"When you’re messing around in free agency, I think the more you know a player the better chance you have of being correct,’’ Zimmer said via TwinCities.com. "So for me, a lot of it has been familiarity. Not only me knowing them, but them knowing me and how I am. I think that’s an important part of the process."

And, interestingly Iloka indicated he "would love" to play for Zimmer, and former Bengals offensive coordinator, Hue Jackson, too.

It's hard to argue Zimmer's point, especially after he signed Chris Crocker and pursued Michael Johnson after leaving the Bengals to become the Vikings' head coach following the 2013 season. He also signed Terence Newman and Taylor Mays in 2015 when they hit free agency, though Mays didn't make the team. It would stand to reason that he'd want to pursue players he's familiar with again this year.

Part of the reason the Vikings might want to find a talented strong safety in free agency is the fact that they have a Pro Bowl free safety in Harrison Smith.

"I think Harrison can be more impactful if he had the right kind of guy next to him," Zimmer explained this at the Combine. Pairing him with another productive safety could turn the Vikings' defensive backfield into one to truly be feared.

Former Bengals and Vikings safety, Solomon Wilcots, echoed these sentiments. "(Iloka is) very smart. He doesn't give up big plays," Wilcots said. "He's very disciplined and he's got very good ball skills and good range." He also stated, Iloka or Reggie Nelson would be a tremendous pairing with Harrison Smith.

Nelson has already expressed his desire to return to the Bengals in 2016, but there's certainly no guarantee that he will re-sign. But, as a talented free safety who had his best season as a pro last year (50 tackles, two fumbles recovered, eight interceptions, and a Pro Bowl nomination), you would think the chances of there being mutual interest are pretty high, especially if Iloka doesn't return to the team.

Complicating the rumor that the Vikings are interested in Iloka, it was reported on Saturday that the Vikings reached a four year, $16 million deal with incumbent strong safety, Andrew Sendejo. Due to Zimmer's comments at the Combine about improving the strong safety position, this does not necessarily mean that Sendejo will retain his starting defensive job and that they'll no longer be interested in Iloka. Sendejo is a special teams ace with the Vikings, and likely was signed primarily on that basis.

That said, that's still a $4 million hit to the Vikings' salary cap for this season. With Spotrac having estimating the Vikings' salary cap at $21 million before the Sendejo signing, that leaves $17 million for the Vikings to pursue free agents and re-sign any of the 12 members of their 2015 roster who are currently unrestricted free agents, as well as the three others who are restricted or exclusive rights free agents. Given that Spotrac estimates Iloka's cap number at $5.6 million, it seems unlikely that the Vikings will be able to realistically pursue Iloka while still remaining competitive at other positions.

It also seems that the Vikings will be employing a strategy similar to the Bengals' in free agency.

"The  theme and philosophy we've done is built through the draft, and all those draft picks now we've been able to accumulate, and with the coaching staff and how they develop young players, that's starting to show up on the field,'' Minnesota general manager Rick Spielman said. "If you can continue to layer year in and year out and do a good job in the draft, I'd rather look to extend those guys in their second contracts then go out and do free agency. But there's always a player here or there you may dabble in the free-agent market."