Reports: Lions pursuing George Iloka, J.R. Sweezy

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News
George Iloka

When free agency officially begins at 4 p.m. Wednesday, Lions general manager Bob Quinn will start to show just how he plans to build his new team.

But, with the NFL’s legal tampering period for free agency beginning Monday, the Lions reportedly made some of their intentions known.

George Iloka, who spent the last four years with the Bengals, is arguably the best strong safety available, and the Lions are one of five teams that have shown interest in signing him, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer.

The Lions also have expressed interest in offensive guard J.R. Sweezy, who’s been with the Seahawks the past four seasons, according to NFL Network. In that chase, the Lions are one of at least nine teams.

Meanwhile, Lions linebacker Tahir Whitehead has at least one suitor after reported the Eagles are interested. Whitehead should have better offers on the open market than with the Lions, and the Eagles would be a homecoming of sorts for the New Jersey native who went to Temple.

Although teams and agents can discuss parameters of a deal, travel arrangements cannot be made for players.

After some issues with the legal tampering period in 2015, including the Dolphins’ pursuit of former Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, league officials shortened the time teams could negotiate with agents of pending free agents from three days to two.

Lions face shorter negotiating period for free agents

Pro Football Talk obtained a memo the NFL sent to teams outlining the restrictions of the tampering period. In negotiations before 4 p.m. Wednesday, teams and agents can discuss all aspects of a contract, but any agreement is non-binding.

Teams also cannot execute a contract or an agreement in principle, according to Pro Football Talk. In 2015, details of Suh’s contract with the Dolphins leaked during the tampering period, but NFL officials determined there was no violation.

Teams can sign their own free agents at any time.

Iloka would be a logical player for the Lions to chase. With Isa Abdul-Quddus and James Ihedigbo set to become unrestricted free agents, the Lions need a strong safety to pair with Glover Quin, and the 25-year-old Iloka could be a long-term solution.

The Enquirer’s report, however, said the Bengals want Iloka back, and there’s a possibility he returns. The Falcons, Giants and Vikings also are interested, and Minnesota has a connection to Iloka with coach Mike Zimmer previously working as Cincinnati’s defensive coordinator.

Sweezy’s fit with the Lions is less clear. He’s primarily played right guard, and the Lions have their presumed starting guards in Larry Warford and Laken Tomlinson. The Lions may believe Sweezy could play center or guard, or he’d be the right price for a veteran backup, though his 46 starts the past three years can probably earn him a starting job somewhere.