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NFL Free Agency: George Iloka could be the safety the Eagles need

Profiling potential Eagles 2016 free agent targets.

Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The Philadelphia Eagles will potentially need a new starting safety (again) this offseason. 2015 starter Walter Thurmond is scheduled to be a free agent when the new league year begins. Recent reports indicate the Eagles haven't reached out to Thurmond yet so it's unclear if he'll be back. It's been speculated that the converted cornerback might not fit what Jim Schwartz wants on the back end of his defense.

The good news for the Eagles is that they might be able to find a safety in NFL free agency. There are several options on the market. The Eagles are reportedly interested in a "high-end" player and Cincinnati Bengals safety George Iloka (not to be confused with Nate Ilaoa) could fit the bill.

NFL Career

Iloka was drafted by the Bengals in the fifth round of the 2012 NFL Draft. After being active for only seven games as a rookie, he moved into a starting role in his second season. He's started 44 games for the Bengals since the start of the 2013. In four years with Cincinnati he's amassed 128 tackles, five interceptions, 20 passes defensed, two forced fumbles, and one fumble recovery.

Appeal to Eagles

Iloka turns 26 in late March so he's still young. He also has very intriguing size at 6-4, 225 pounds. That's really big for a safety. He also has really long arms, which is why he's so good at knocking passes down.

Our friends over at Cincy Jungle really want the Bengals to keep Iloka. Check out their profile:

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.

The safety position has been an issue for the Eagles for a long time. They finally settled that position in 2015 with the combination of Thurmond and Malcolm Jenkins but it seems like Thurmond might not be back. If that's the case, the Birds really need to add a surefire starter. There aren't any proven in-house options outside of Jenkins. Signing Iloka would be an instant solution to a big roster hole.

Watch some Iloka highlights here. (WARNING: Music NSFW.)

For what it's worth, Iloka graded as the NFL's 15th best safety by Pro Football Focus last season.

Appeal to Iloka

Money. It sounds like Iloka is going to have a competitive market. The Vikings (coached by former Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer) and Lions are reportedly interested so far. The Eagles have enough money to be aggressive for a young safety like this if they feel he's a long-term solution. There's clearly a full time starting opportunity for Iloka in Philly.

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