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No regrets after ‘beautiful deal’ with Jets



Widely criticized for sitting out last season and overplaying his negotiating hand as he entered free agency, running back Le’Veon Bell claimed Thursday night he has no regrets, saying he landed “a beautiful deal” with the New York Jets.

The former Pittsburgh Steelers star signed a four-year, $52.5 million contract, including $25 million guaranteed at signing.

“I don’t regret anything that had happened,” Bell said on the conference call with reporters. “Everything’s happened for a reason. Who can say that if I played last year, you know, if I do go out and play last year on a one-year franchise tag, if I do get hurt, do I end up sitting in this position today, being with the New York Jets on a beautiful deal?”

Bell also suggested a heavy workload with the Steelers might have hurt his market value, saying, “Who’s to say a team would take me after 400 carries?”

He wouldn’t have faced that situation if he had accepted the Steelers’ long-term offer, a reported $70 million over five years. That proposal included $33 million in the first two years and $20.5 million guaranteed in the first year.

A review of Bell’s contract with the Jets shows he’ll be making less money that what he could have had in Pittsburgh. He will make $14.5 million in the first year, including an $8 million signing bonus. His two-year payout is $26 million. The three-year payout is $39.5 million, $5.5 million shy of what he would’ve made with the Steelers.

The market for Bell wasn’t as robust as many expected. In the end, it came down to the Jets and San Francisco 49ers. His $13.1 million-a-year average ranks second among running backs, behind Todd Gurley ($14.4 million).

Speaking publicly for the first time since the end of the season, Bell struck an upbeat tone, declining to comment on the Steelers and their recent trade of Antonio Brown. He said the year away from football has done wonders for his body.

“I’ve been playing football since the age of 4 years old, every single year,” he said. “The fact that I took last year off — it sucked having to watch football – but at the same time, from the end of December through January and February, it’s the best my body has ever felt in my life. There’s nothing that comes close or compares to how I feel, literally just resting and letting my body heal. … I’ve got so much built up in me that it’s time to let it go now.”

Bell, 27, wouldn’t say what he weighs, but he vowed to be in football shape by the start of the season.

He spoke highly of quarterback Sam Darnold, saying the quarterback’s potential factored into his decision. He wants to be Darnold’s “security blanket” on the field. Bell also complimented safety Jamal Adams for his nonstop recruiting.

“He was on my line constant, you know, pulling up, pulling me, texting me, tweeting me, Instagram, everything he could to get me here,” Bell said. “Just for him to reach out to me and things like that, it meant everything in the world to me, that someone wants me that much, that a team wants me that much. I’m glad to be here. He’s definitely a huge part. He made that happen. Got to give him a lot of credit.”

Bell said “all the stars kind of aligned to the Jets,” adding they were his favorite team growing up in Ohio. His favorite player was running back Curtis Martin, a Hall of Famer.

Bell laughed off a comment he made last year to TMZ, the one about how he wouldn’t take a $100 million to play for the Jets.

“That was just me being on Twitter and TMZ, talking,” he said. “That’s all that was. You know, I’m glad where I am. The situation I’m in right now, I wouldn’t change it for anything in the world.”

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Kentucky’s Allen says he’s the draft’s best player



LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky Wildcats pass rusher Josh Allen, who chased down a lot of quarterbacks in the fall, might not be able to close the gap on Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray — widely projected as the top pick in next month’s draft. But Allen still believes he’s the “best overall player.”

“You can just watch the film, watch the games,” Allen told ESPN on Friday at the Kentucky pro day. “If you’re talking about stats, I mean, I finished second in the nation in sacks, playing in the SEC, which doesn’t throw the ball as much as other conferences.

“I’m physical. I played the whole season. I played every game. I’m healthy. I just think I’m the best edge rusher, the best pass rusher, the best overall player in this draft.”

Allen decided not to work out at the school’s pro day, opting to stand on his scouting-combine workout. Allen will visit several teams in the coming weeks, including the San Francisco 49ers, Oakland Raiders, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New York Giants and Detroit Lions, according to the NFL Network. He told ESPN he expects the New York Jets to be on his list of pre-draft stops.

Allen, who recorded 17 sacks in his senior season, is considered a likely top-5 pick. The 49ers, Jets, Raiders, Bucs and Giants own the second to sixth picks, respectively.

The Kentucky pro day drew talent evaluators from every NFL team. One head coach was in attendance, Mike Zimmer of the Minnesota Vikings. Two general managers were present — Rick Spielman (Vikings) and Mike Mayock (Raiders). It’s possible that some top decision-makers decided to skip it because they knew Allen wasn’t planning to work out.

Allen, who grew up in Montclair, New Jersey, spent time chatting with Giants scouts. It would be a homecoming if he were drafted by the Giants or Jets. His family’s home is about 15 miles from the two facilities.

“I’m from there and I know the areas, so I wouldn’t have to get introduced as much,” he said. “It would mean a lot, being back home in my old stomping grounds. I didn’t grow up a Giants or Jets fan, but I wouldn’t mind being a fan now.”

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Saints near deal with TE Cook, sources say



The New Orleans Saints are on the verge of filling their most glaring need with the top pass-catching tight end available in free agency this year, Jared Cook.

Sources have described a deal between the two sides as close but not finalized — which Cook himself amplified on Friday.

When asked whether he has agreed to a deal with New Orleans, Cook winked and told ESPN’s Jamison Hensley, “Maybe,” while at an event for the NFL’s Ed Block Courage Award winners. Cook then said “it’s going to be pretty awesome” catching passes from Drew Brees.

“I’ve been a big fan of Drew for a long time and the way he approaches the game,” Cook said. “He’s on point. He’s on top of his game right now. He’s just a baller. I look forward to seeing him do great things in the future. …

“It could be a big production year. Just as long as I take care of what I can take care of, we should be all right.”

When asked whether he is surprised to be leaving the Oakland Raiders after having two of the best seasons of his 10-year career with them, Cook said, “Yeah, but it’s a business. They’re still my guys. You take it for what it is.”

Cook will turn 32 on April 7, but he is coming off arguably the finest season of his career (a career-high 68 catches, career-high 896 receiving yards and career-high six touchdowns). He played in his first Pro Bowl in January as an alternate.

New Orleans, meanwhile, needs another reliable pass-catcher to pair with receiver Michael Thomas and running back Alvin Kamara. Last year, tight end Benjamin Watson ranked third on the Saints with 35 receptions — and Watson has since retired.

Cook spent two years with the Raiders and is the first tight end in NFL history to have a 100-yard-receiving game for four teams — the Titans, Rams, Packers and Raiders.

Last season, Cook had four games with more than 100 yards receiving. He set the franchise record for a tight end with 180 yards — on nine catches — in the season opener against the Los Angeles Rams.

Cook was fourth among all NFL tight ends last season in receiving yards, tied for fourth in touchdowns and was third with 15 receptions of at least 20 yards.

With 5,464 career receiving yards, Cook is the eighth active tight end in the NFL with at least 5,000 yards. He has 425 receptions for an average of 12.9 yards per catch, and he has 25 touchdowns.

He was also the Raiders’ winner of the Ed Block award, which says it honors “those who exemplify commitments to the principles of sportsmanship and courage. The recipient symbolizes professionalism, great strength and dedication.”

ESPN’s Paul Gutierrez contributed to this report.

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Top FCS prospect Adderley injured at pro day



Delaware safety Nasir Adderley‘s pro day ended early on Friday because of a pulled hamstring suffered while running the 40-yard dash.

Adderley competed in four events before getting hurt. The top FCS-level prospect didn’t compete in the drills at the NFL Combine due to a previous ankle injury.

He was the featured attraction at Delaware’s pro day, projected for the first or second round in the April 25-27 draft in Nashville, Tennessee.

Adderley measured in at 6 feet, 203 pounds. Delaware Athletics reported he timed 4.54 seconds in the 40 despite the injury, had a 39-inch vertical leap and a 16-9 broad jump with 19 reps on the 225-pound bench press.

Afterward, Adderley was upbeat and said he is ready to contribute anyway he’s asked at the next level. He played both cornerback and safety in his Blue Hens career. He’s also expected to contribute on special teams.

“I’m confident I can play anywhere,” he said.

A rangy player who tackles hard, Adderley was a first-team STATS FCS All-American as a senior. He had 87 stops with four interceptions and seven pass breakups in 12 games.

He also was a standout at the Reese’s Senior Bowl. Named a captain for the winning North team, he was in on five tackles and intercepted Buffalo quarterback Tyree Jackson in the fourth quarter.

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