A few days ago, one of the more surprising cuts hit the newswire when it was reported that veteran George Iloka, a six year starter for the Cincinnati Bengals, had been let go. There was immediate speculation that Iloka might be a fit for the Vikings, since he spent his first two years with the Bengals working under then-defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer.
It was a reasonable assumption, as Minnesota pursued Iloka in free agency back in 2016, but to no avail. Iloka re-upped with the Bengals, signing a five year, $30 million dollar deal, with $18 million guaranteed.
When Iloka was released, the Vikings seemed like a possible destination again, as it was thought that Iloka’s knowledge of the defense and his past relationship with Zimmer might be enough for the Vikings to kick the tires on him.
It appears they’re doing more than that:
Whoa. Free-agent safety George Iloka is on his way to Minnesota, and it appears likely he signs with the #Vikings today, per @RapSheet and me. Mike Zimmer connection from #Bengals days. One of the NFL’s best defenses about to get even better?— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) August 22, 2018
Iloka and the Vikings make a ton of sense based on his history with Zimmer in Cincinnati, but I thought that the Vikes were kind of set at safety. There is an argument to be made that depth needs to be addressed at other positions, like offensive line or wide receiver, and Andrew Sendejo has played pretty well the last couple years. He was ranked as the 13th overall safety per PFF last year, and of all the position groups on the team, the defensive backfield seemed to be a low priority in terms of finding guys that can play.
But Iloka brings a ton of experience and depth to an already stacked secondary, and challenges Sendejo for a starting job opposite Harrison Smith. Just because you’re already strong at a position doesn’t mean you should pass up an opportunity to get a good football player when the situation presents itself. And the Vikings appear to be doing just that.
Vikings fans were salivating at a Smith-Iloka safety combo back in 2016, and now it could very well happen. He’s well versed in Mike Zimmer’s ‘Double A Gap’ defense, he’s been a starter for five years, and in that time has missed only four games due to injury. Iloka shouldn’t have any problems assimilating in to the defense, and the tough decisions for the Vikings staff on who stays and who goes in the secondary when cutdown day comes just got a whole lot tougher.
So barring a snafu in contract negotiations, it looks like the Vikings are adding another really good player to an already great defense. When we get more details, we’ll pass them along.