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Bengals Re-Sign Safety George Iloka Before Free-Agent Market Opens

Reports say fifth-year veteran agrees to five-year, $30 million deal, which takes him off the market.

Coveted safety George Iloka has re-signed with the Bengals. He becomes their first significant free-agent signing of the year, before the former fifth-round pick could hit the market, opening today at 4 p.m. EST.

According to reports, Iloka, the last pick in the fifth round of the 2012 NFL Draft, has agreed to a five-year, $30 million deal. It’s believed that Iloka secured $18 million in the first three years, second most ever by a safety behind Donte Whitner, according to the Bengals' official web site.

Though just 25 years old, Iloka has started 44 games while emerging as a consistent force in the secondary of a Bengals defense that ranked second in the league in scoring last season.

With a rare blend of size and athleticism, the 6-4, 225-pound Iloka rates as one of the NFL's top coverage safeties. He was rated by many as one of the top three safeties on this year's market.

Iloka turns 26 March 31, and he's already a three-year starter heading into his fifth NFL season. He has a history of catching on fast. In 2008, he was the youngest player in his college conference at age 17. He played in every game that season with five starts for a Boise State team that won its first 12 games. With the Bengals, he has started all but four games since the beginning of 2013 when he became a starter in just his second season.

Strong with good length, Iloka’s 34 1/2-inch arms were the longest among defensive backs at the 2012 NFL Scouting Combine. He was considered one of the best safety prospects in the 2012 draft, but was the 32nd pick in the fifth round, a veritable bargain for the Bengals. After seeing time in just seven games as a rookie, he emerged for Cincinnati in 2013, playing 96.7 percent of the snaps. He exhibited great range and speed, and began using his length as an advantage in coverage.

He broke out in 2014 when he totaled career-highs in tackles (74), passes defensed (10) and interceptions (3). He graded out as a top cover safety by Pro Football Focus, missing just 12 snaps. PFF said that among 59 safeties who played at least 50 percent of his team's snaps in 2014, Iloka was No. 1 in passer rating against him, allowing a QB rating of 18.4. He finished 2013 as PFF's No. 20 safety out of 86 qualifying players.

Iloka plays free safety, but he can play strong safety. He rarely gets beat over his head. He can play in the box, and he can stay with a tight end. His desire is unquestioned. If there's a knock on his game it's that he doesn't force many turnovers. He has five interceptions, two forced fumbles and no sacks in 51 career games.

Injuries, primarily a balky groin, limited Iloka to 12 starts in 2015. He finished with 47 tackles, four passes defensed and one interception. He was one of four Bengals secondary members grading out at 80 or better by PFF, nearly equaling the grade of Pro Bowl cornerback Adam Jones.

Though he once struggled at times against the run, in man coverage and while attempting tackles in space, Iloka has made strides in those areas, making him one of the best all-around safeties who's yet to play in the Pro Bowl. PFF said Iloka's run defense grade over the last two seasons is +4.7, while his coverage grade is +7.2


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