Cincinnati Bengals safety George Iloka reportedly will remain with the franchise after agreeing to a new deal Wednesday.
Since playing sparingly his rookie season in 2012, Iloka became a mainstay in the Bengals lineup the past three seasons. He started all 44 games he played during that stretch, snagging five interceptions and defending 20 passes.
Iloka's new contract is more along the lines of what he is worth, considering he made less than $3 million over his first four seasons. Joe Soriano of NFL Spin Zone wrote that while Iloka's stats are not eye-popping, he should have been the Bengals' top offseason priority:
Iloka’s stat sheet this past season looks pretty underwhelming, because he recorded just 47 tackles with one interception and four passes defended. Whereas his safety partner [Reggie] Nelson was busy racking up the picks and plaudits, Iloka made few truly game-changing plays. However, Iloka has always been one of the best defensive backs in the NFL at avoiding allowing a huge play, and he played a big role on a defense that was sixth in the NFL in net yards per attempt allowed and second in passing touchdowns surrendered.
Despite looking to cash in on his next contract, returning to the Bengals was always an option for the safety.
"I would be open to returning to Cincinnati and finishing what we started, getting a [Super Bowl] ring," Iloka said on March 1 on SiriusXM Radio.
The 25-year-old will look to be a vital part of the Bengals' efforts to get out of the first round of the postseason, something Iloka has yet to experience in his career. Iloka commented on the team's playoff struggles following the team's exit at the hands of the Pittsburgh Steelers, via Paul Dehner Jr. of Cincinnati.com:
Being real with you, this don’t make no sense. This is my fourth year and I’m at a loss for words. It’s really disheartening. I’m sad for ourselves, for all the fans we let down. They have been riding with us since I got here. It’s crazy all the talent we have and we lose to teams personally, to me, I don’t think they match up to us talent-wise and some way, we lose.
With Iloka locked up, the Bengals will turn their attention to Nelson, who is set to enter free agency himself. If Cincinnati can reach a deal with Nelson, the safety position will remain one of the strengths for the Bengals as they look to make another run at a Super Bowl.