Vikings Close to Bringing Back Veteran Safety: Report

George Iloka

Getty George Iloka was named a free agent the Vikings need to let walk in 2021.

The Vikings could reunite with a familiar face by the end of the week.

Former Vikings and Bengals safety George Iloka is in the Twin Cities area undergoing coronavirus protocols and is expected to be signed by the Vikings, the Pioneer Press’ Chris Tomasson reported. Iloka, who played for the Vikings in 2018, worked out with the Vikings at training camp last month.

Iloka, 30, played two years for coach Mike Zimmer with the Bengals before his former defensive coordinator’s departure to take the helm of the Vikings. He played the next four years in Cincinnati before the Vikings signed him in 2018. He played all 16 games, starting in three, that season, but was not on an NFL roster in 2019.

The Vikings likely did not sign Iloka before Week 1 as veteran contracts require all money guaranteed if the player is on the roster ahead of Week 1. The Vikings can now sign him without his contract being fully guaranteed.

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Iloka Experienced In Several Roles With Vikings

Although he was dressed for all 16 games in 2018, Iloka played only 116 defensive snaps and was largely a special teams player with the Vikings. He replaced Andrew Sendejo following a groin injury in Week 5 that landed him on the Vikings’ injured reserve list for the rest of the season. Iloka started in the following three games before Anthony Harris took the starting role and ran with it.

Before 2018, Iloka was a bonafide starter with the Bengals. He started in 76 games from 2013 to 2017, missing six games in 2015 due to a groin injury. Iloka’s first year starting with Zimmer in 2013 established the safety, playing a hand in four turnovers and totaling 66 combined tackles as a disruptive strong safety.

He averaged two interceptions the following years, leading to his best season in 2017 when he allowed a 68.4 passer rating in coverage.

Adding Iloka For Insurance

George Iloka

GettyFormer Bengals safety George Iloka was brought into Vikings training camp for a try out after he played with the team in 2018.

The Vikings’ first depth chart was a surprise as the team rostered no backups behind starting safeties Anthony Harris and Harrison Smith. In Week 1, the team activated Nate Meadors off of the practice squad as a backup defensive back as the second-year player took reps at safety and cornerback during training camp.

The Vikings aren’t looking for any player to take snaps away from Smith and Harris — Meadors was not used once last Sunday — but simply an insurance policy should one of the starters go down.That’s where Iloka comes in.

Iloka, standing 6-foot-4, was touted a versatile weapon to pair with Smith when he was acquired in 2018 as he switched to free safety in 2016. He proved to be a hard-hitting box safety and able to patrol the top of the defense in coverage. Harris made a strong case as a true free safety, but the addition of Iloka could give the Vikings flexibility in giving the top of the defense a variety of looks and another veteran in a Vikings secondary that is looking to help the cornerbacks mature quickly.


Trevor Squire is a Heavy contributor covering the Minnesota Vikings and journalism graduate from the University of Minnesota — Twin Cities. Connect with him on Twitter @trevordsquire and join our Vikings community at Heavy on Vikings on Facebook.