Last year, the Bengals did an admirable job of re-signing their big free agents like George Iloka, Adam Jones and Vincent Rey, in addition to re-signing some reliable contributors in Eric Winston and Pat Sims. But, the team was unable to retain others like Marvin Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Reggie Nelson and Leon Hall. Those departed players were greatly missed through hard times in 2016, but, other teams were willing to pay more or offer something the Bengals couldn’t (or wouldn’t) to acquire their services.
Free agency makes millionaires out of many players but it also is a rough time for these athletes as they (really, their agents) negotiate with their former team and field offers from new potential suitors.
Iloka lives in Houston, and took part in some of the Super Bowl media opportunities last week. During an appearance on Radio Row, he discussed his advice for Dre Kirkpatrick, one of the many long-time Bengals players preparing to hit free agency in one month.
“I said make the best decision for you, honestly,” Iloka said via the Cincinnati Enquirer of his advice to Kirkpatrick. “I would love to have him back. He had a great year for us and I still think he’s going up as a player. He still has so much more he can be. As good as he played this year he could be better. Do what is best for you. You don’t have to chase every dollar. You can’t put a value on loyalty. Be comfortable.”
Iloka has expressed comfortability and familiarity with the Bengals as part of why he was so interested in re-signing with the team last offseason. "It's the locker room I've been in the last four years. I know the locker room, the players, the coaches and coordinators, the system. I already love it,” Iloka told me last year after re-signing with the Bengals.
Kirkpatrick has spent five years in Cincinnati and has improved each year, just becoming a starter in the last two seasons. Even from the first half of 2016 to the second half, Kirkpatrick and the rest of the Bengals’ defense made considerable improvements as chemistry among the unit grew. That chemistry took a step back at the start of the season due to the departures of Nelson and Hall. Losing Kirkpatrick this offseason could set the defensive back group back again, which is something the Bengals surely don’t want.
It remains to be seen how much Kirkpatrick will demand on the open market and whether his familiarity and experience with the Bengals will push him toward signing a team-friendly deal to remain in Cincinnati for the foreseeable future.
Iloka also joined SB Nation Radio for a brief interview in Houston, which you can check out here: