As we have discussed how the New York Giants can improve their league-worst defense, we keep returning to the belief that they need a rangy, experienced safety to pair with 2015 second-round pick Landon Collins. Let's add another name to the list of possible free agent solutions -- George Iloka of the Cincinnati Bengals.
Iloka, who turns 26 next month, is not a true free safety. He is a 6-foot-4, 225-pound combo safety who has played both strong and free safety. A fifth-round pick by Cincinnati in 2012, Iloka has been a starter for the past three seasons.
In a recent free-agent profile SB Nation's Bengals blog, Cincy Jungle, was effusive in praise of Iloka:
Iloka has a rare blend of size, athleticism and coverage ability. When you see him listed at 6'4" and 225 lbs, you might assume he's a strong safety, but Bengals fans would know Iloka has played more free safety than anything. He patrols that deep safety spot and the defense rarely gets beat over his head. His speed, length and range allow him to be a unique player in the NFL. The Bengals pride themselves in rotating their safety's responsibilities and Iloka can also play inside the box and uses his size to help him in the run game as well. The Bengals often used Iloka to match up against dangerous tight ends because of his blend of size and athleticism. That alone makes Iloka valuable to every NFL team. You just don't find too many DBs with his blend of abilities.
MMQB's Andy Benoit thinks Iloka can be an "elite" player and that he might score one of the biggest contracts in the upcoming free agency period:
Don’t be surprised if Iloka scores one of the 10 biggest contracts in free agency this year. Safeties are increasingly valuable in today’s NFL, and he’s one who can play centerfield or in the box. He also has experience as a corner from his days at Boise State, though he’d have to be used unexpectedly and sparingly in this capacity. At 6’4", 225 pounds, and with arms so long he can practically tie his shoes without bending over, Iloka has the innate physical traits to be elite.
Pro Football Focus ranks Iloka as the No. 3 safety who could be on the free-agent market:
A three-year starter for the Bengals, the former fifth-round pick is one of the most complete safeties hitting free agency this offseason. His run defense grade over the last two seasons is +4.7, while his coverage grade over the same span is +7.2. Iloka has the size (6-foot-4-inches, 225 pounds) that some teams will covet to match up with tight ends, even if he wasn't used often in that role in Cincinnati.
That is an awful lot to like, and a number of characteristics that traditionally appeal to Giants General Manager Jerry Reese. Crazy measurables. Relative youth and upside. Versatility to slide effectively into both safety spots. Those all check boxes for the Giants. So, too, would the fact that he has been a three-year starter for a good Cincinnati team.
Spotrac's Calculated Market Value for Iloka is four years, $22.59 million, or $5.6 annually. Given some of what has been said here about Iloka, and the rapidly inflating 2016 salary cap projections, the guess here is that it may cost considerably more than to ink Iloka.
In addition to the price tag, and despite the reports of his versatility, the Giants would have to decide whether Iloka can play center field and complement Collins, or whether his skillset is too similar. Here are a couple of Vines with Iloka in action:
The biggest catch on the free-agent safety market would be Eric Berry of the Kansas City Chiefs. Let's project that Berry, as seems likely, winds up back in Kansas City. Does that leave Iloka as the No. 1 target for the Giants, the guy worth the biggest financial investment?
Your thoughts, Giants fans?