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Bengals cut George Iloka: What it means going forward for Cincinnati

This move will likely have a dramatic impact on the franchise moving forward.

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals-Training Camp The Cincinnati Enquirer-USA TODAY NETWORK

The Bengals just had one of the biggest shockers of 2018.

Following Cincinnati’s preseason win in Dallas, the team cut starting safety George Iloka. It was a move that came out of nowhere and was a major surprise to everyone in Cincinnati, as Iloka had become a valued member of this franchise, not to mention a leader on this defense since earning a starting role in 2013.

So, what exactly does this mean for the franchise going forward?

Jessie Bates...or bust

When the Bengals invested a second-round pick in Wake Forest safety Jessie Bates, it was clear there was going to be a big chance to the secondary, eventually.

But the thought was that Bates would be incorporated as a third safety and occasionally rotate in for either Iloka or Shawn Williams, depending on the down and distance. As slow as the Bengals bring along even high draft picks, no one thought Bates was going to be handed a starting role as soon as 2018.

While there’s obviously a chance someone like Brandon Wilson, Clayton Fejedelem or Josh Shaw ultimately gets that second starting spot, this move is almost assuredly being made with the idea of Bates starting sooner rather than later.

Marvin Lewis may have actually let it slip that Iloka being cut and Bates replacing him was in the works for weeks.

“We have been pushing him in (the game) early, and you want to see him take command when he has to take command. He could end up being the guy back there real quick,” Lewis said after a recent practice. “You have to keep urging Jessie to move forward.”

We can only hope.

Overhaul continues

The only thing more surprising than the Bengals letting go of Iloka was the decision to bring Marvin Lewis back for a 16th year following back-to-back losing seasons. But when the Bengals brought Lewis back, they made it a point that there were going to be sweeping chances throughout the roster and coaching staff.

With Iloka out, here’s a recap of who’s left Cincinnati this offseason:

  • Starting CB Adam Jones
  • Starting OC Russell Bodine
  • Starting LB Kevin Minter
  • Starting FS George Iloka
  • Starting DT Pat Sims
  • OL coach Paul Alexander
  • DC Paul Guenther
  • Secondary coach Kevin Coyle
  • WR coach James Urban

You’ll see a lot of the changes have been on the defensive side, despite the offense being among the league’s worst in 2017. While the Bengals did make moves to upgrade that side of the ball, they’ve also gone out of their way to overhaul the defense as well.

Hopefully, all of these moves ultimately pay off, but it’s hard to see them not leading to a lot of growing pains to begin the 2018 regular season, which includes road games vs. the Colts, Falcons, Panthers and Chiefs in addition to a home clash with the Steelers before the Week 9 bye.

Patience is going to be a big key this year, both for the team and its fanbase.

More money for...?

Safeties aren’t one of the more valued positions in the NFL, yet the Bengals were spending a pretty penny on their duo of Iloka and Williams, so they must have felt it was time to look for an upgrade and save some money in the process.

By releasing Iloka, the team will save almost $18 million in cap space over the next three seasons, money that ‘should’ be used to re-sign guys like Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap and perhaps Darqueze Dennard. Those three guys are key players in this defense that are slated to hit free agency in 2019, so cutting Iloka gives them more room to re-sign 2-3 of those guys.

The team has been making progress with Dunlap, while Atkins is more of a mystery at this point. Dennard appears likely to be heading elsewhere in 2019 since the Bengals already are paying Dre Kirkpatrick big bucks while William Jackson is a rising star.

Speaking of, the Bengals are going to pay Kirkpatrick almost twice as much as they did Iloka, and there’s no question the latter plays his position much better than the former.

Food for thought.

Was this the right move?

Knowing what we know, were the Bengals wise to move on from Iloka now?

It’s safe to think they probably tried to trade Iloka before flat-out releasing him, so perhaps the rest of the NFL didn’t think highly of him either, at least at his current pay, since he’s now on the open market.


Did the Bengals make the right move cutting George Iloka?

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