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Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons are signing free agent defensive tackle Prince Emili, his agent, Paul Sheehy, announced.

Emili, 25, played for the San Antonio Brahmas of the UFL this spring. The Brahmas lost to the Birmingham Stallions in the championship game on Sunday.

Emili made 21 tackles, two tackles for loss and three sacks in the UFL.

He has spent time with the Bills and the Saints in the NFL, playing two games for Buffalo in 2022. Emili saw action on 22 defensive snaps and made three tackles and a pass defensed.

Emili has remained an NFL free agent since the Saints cut him out of the preseason last summer.

The Falcons are signing free agent offensive lineman Jaryd Jones-Smith, Aaron Wilson of KPRC reports.

Jones-Smith played with the St. Louis Battlehawks in the UFL this spring and made the All-UFL team. He previously played for the Battlehawks in the XFL.

Jones-Smith entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent out of the University of Pittsburgh in 2018, signing with the Texans. He also has spent time with the Dolphins, 49ers, Ravens, Raiders and Commanders.

He has played six career NFL games, three with the Raiders in 2020 and three with the Ravens in 2021.

Jones-Smith has seen action on two offensive snaps and 27 on special teams in the regular season.

The Falcons are looking for depth at tackle behind Jake Matthews, Kaleb McGary and Storm Norton.

The Falcons are adding team owner Arthur Blank and former quarterback Matt Ryan to the team’s ring of honor.

Ryan won a league MVP award and led the Falcons to a Super Bowl, so his selection to the ring of honor is obviously well deserved. Ryan arrived in Atlanta with the third overall pick in the 2008 NFL draft and played 14 seasons with the Falcons before playing one final season with the Colts and then retiring. He was a four-time Pro Bowler for the Falcons.

Blank’s induction raises the obvious question about whether the people in charge of the Ring of Honor might have been slightly biased by the fact that Blank signs their paychecks. But Falcons President Greg Beadles said Blank deserves the recognition for “his unwavering dedication to the fans and city of Atlanta.”

Blank will be enshrined on September 22 during the Week Three game against the Chiefs. Ryan will be enshrined on October 3 during the Week Five game against the Buccaneers.

Falcons receiver Drake London has been solid in his first two seasons, with his production likely limited by Atlanta’s spotty quarterback play.

But that should change in a significant way with Kirk Cousins behind center for 2024.

In a recent interview with SiriusXM NFL Radio, London said he’s expecting Cousins to help improve his game.

“I will say it does feel different having Kirk here,” London said. He’s a very veteran guy who’s been here — now going into his 13th year. So to learn from him is a really cool thing.”

London cited Cousins’ attention to detail as a factor that’s set him apart — and a tool that should aid London in getting better.

“He takes that very, very seriously,” London said. “And then he’s seen a lot of pictures in his day playing football. So to be able to go out there and key those and help us see it with I’m is a huge thing, too. So I think that’s what I’ve learned the most.

“I think he’s going to help me learn the game of football on a bigger scale and understand it a little bit more. And for that, I really can’t wait and see where it takes my game.”

In 33 games over the last two years, London has caught 141 passes for 1,771 yards with six touchdowns. Last year, the former No. 8 overall pick caught 59 passes for 905 yards with a pair of TDs.

The Giants are signing free agent running back Jacob Saylors, his agent, Ray Haija, announced.

Saylors played for the St. Louis Battlehawks of the UFL.

He worked out for the Giants last week.

Saylors earned All-UFL honors by rushing for 461 yards and five touchdowns.

He went undrafted out of East Tennessee State in 2023 and signed with the Bengals. Saylors had nine rushes for 27 yards in the final preseason game but did not make the team’s roster.

Saylors spent time on the Falcons’ practice squad before an injury, and Atlanta waived him Jan. 2.

When pointing out that, if the Patriots had done what the Falcons had done the Patriots would have suffered a far greater punishment, some will respond by saying the Patriots are repeat offenders.

Well, the Falcons are, too. However, both times they’ve broken the rules in the past decade, they’ve gotten a slap on the wrist.

In 2015, they lost only a 2016 fifth-round pick for getting caught using fake crowd noise at home games. They also were fined $350,000, and Rich McKay was suspended from the Competition Committee for three months.

This time around, it was a 2025 fifth-round pick and a $250,000 fine — along with a $50,000 fine for G.M. Terry Fontenot — for tampering with three different players during the 52-hour negotiation window.

Meanwhile, the 49ers had a clerical error in their salary cap accounting. And they suffered a greater punishment than either of Atlanta’s infractions. For the $75,000 mistake, the 49ers lost a 2025 fifth-round pick and had their 2024 fourth-round pick downgraded by four spots.

The 49ers’ violation had no competitive impact. They remained under the cap, and the league found no ill intent in the making of the accounting mistake.

I know, I know. The Falcons only made travel arrangements. That’s the official version. I choose not to buy it, because it conflicts with what Kirk Cousins said on the day he signed the contract.

The Atlanta punishment was always going to be driven by the quality of the investigation. We don’t know, and won’t know, how seriously the NFL explored the facts. We don’t know, and won’t know, whether it was just a matter of accepting self-serving accounts at face value or the kind of I’m-the-captain-now zeal that the Patriots experienced in #Deflategate.

Regardless, there’s something wrong with this picture. The draft-pick consequence for a $75,000 clerical error shouldn’t be worse than the punishment for cheating with crowd noise or for tampering with three different players.

It proves yet again that the NFL is inconsistent when it comes to the application of its rules, and that it makes decisions based not on precedent but situation.

Twice since 2015, the Falcons have gotten a break. Earlier this year, the 49ers got the shaft.

Calais Campbell is finally coming back to where he played college football.

The former University of Miami standout is expected to sign with the Dolphins, according to NFL Media.

A second-round pick of the Cardinals in 2008, Campbell spent nine years in Arizona, three years in Jacksonville, three in Baltimore, and one in Atlanta.

For season No. 17, he’s returning to Miami.

Campbell, who turns 38 on September 1, was a first-team All-Pro in 2017. He’s a six-time Pro Bowler, he was a member of the all-decade team of the 2010s, and he was named Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year in 2019.

We have plenty of questions about the NFL’s decision in the Falcons tampering investigation, given that the outcome doesn’t seem to mesh with the comments made by quarterback Kirk Cousins during his introductory press conference.

A request was made to interview someone from the league about the situation. The NFL declined to make anyone available.

As an alternative (and despite strongly preferring the ability to talk to someone), we submitted five questions. The NFL responded.

Here they are, as asked and as answered.

1. “The Eagles statement specifies the investigative steps. The Falcons statement does not. What was done to prove the Falcons’ violation?”

A: “The NFL reviewed phone logs, text messages and other documents including transcripts of press conferences, and also conducted interviews with relevant personnel.”

2. “On March 13, Kirk Cousins said he talked to the head athletic trainer during the negotiating window. Was that investigated?”

3. “On March 13, Cousins said he spoke to director of player personnel Ryan Pace. Cousins didn’t specify a day or time, but it likely was before 4:00 p.m. ET on March 13. Was that investigated?”

A: “And yes to your questions 2-3. The evidence found that no Falcons’ employee had direct contact with any of the players before their agents had agreed to terms. The impermissible contact came after that and was done with respect to discuss administrative logistical matters.”

4. “On March 13, Cousins said he became personally involved in the recruitment of Darnell Mooney during the negotiating window. Was that investigated?”

5. “On March 13, Cousins said Kyle Pitts had been recruiting Cousins for roughly two weeks. Was the question of whether Pitts did that at the behest of or with knowledge of the Falcons investigated?”

A: “For 4-5, yes, we looked into it but there was no evidence that the club played a role in those conversations.”

The league also added a comment on our comparison to the Chiefs’ punishment for speaking to receiver Jeremy Maclin during the negotiating window in 2015 and the Dolphins’ 2022 punishment for tampering with Tom Brady and Sean Payton.

“Your Chiefs or Dolphins comps aren’t fair,” the league said, “in both cases, there was direct contact from club executives to the individual player prior to the negotiation period in an attempt to get the player to sign with the club while still under contract to other clubs. [Jeremy] Maclin with the Eagles, with Coach Andy Reid and GM John Dorsey fined for their involvement along with picks. Tom Brady (when he was with the Patriots 2019-20 and then Bucs during and after the 2021 season with ownership fined/suspended).”

The extra statement suggests that the league views tampering during the negotiating window differently. The league seems to be saying that tampering that happens during the negotiating window will be viewed as something less than tampering prior to the negotiating window.

There are two problems with that. First, the Anti-Tampering Policy contains no language supporting that view. Second, the league’s current comments as to Jeremy Maclin case conflict with the league’s statement at the time the punishment was announced. The league’s own release states that the Chiefs’ impermissible contact with Maclin happened “during the 2015 ‘Negotiation Window’" — not before.

That’s what happened here, with three different players: Cousins, Darnell Mooney, and Charlie Woerner.

Some would say the league has lowered the bar for tampering on a league-wide basis. The more accurate view could be that the league will raise and lower the bar on a case-by-case basis, to justify whatever its preferred outcome might be in every given situation.

Some teams get hit harder than others. Some teams get investigated more aggressively than others. The inherent lack of consistency is one of the biggest problems for a league that bristles when accused of making the rules up as it goes — while also reserving the right at all times to make the rules up as it goes.

The NFL finally issued the rulings in the companion tampering cases arising from the 2024 pre-free agency negotiating window. The formal announcements from the league contain one key difference.

The statement issued regarding the question of whether the Eagles tampered with Giants running back Saquon Barkley identifies the steps taken to investigate the situation. In contrast, the statement issued regarding the question of whether the Falcons tampered with Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins, Bears receiver Darnell Mooney, and/or 49ers tight Charlie Woerner says nothing about the investigative process.

From the statement as to the Eagles: “In coming to this conclusion, the league reviewed phone logs, text messages and other documents related to Philadelphia’s free agency strategy and decision to sign Barkley. The NFL also interviewed several members of the organization, including Howie Roseman and Nick Sirianni, as well as Barkley and Penn State head coach James Franklin.”

The statement as to the Falcons says only that the team acknowledged that “discussion of travel arrangements or other logistical matters” with the three players occurred.

So, did the Falcons admit to direct discussions with players as to travel arrangements or other logistical matters? Or did the NFL (as in the Eagles’ case) come to that conclusion after reviewing phone logs, texts messages, and other documents related to the Falcons’ free agency strategy? Did they (as in the Eagles’ case) interview the players, coach Raheem Morris, G.M. Terry Fontenot, or others?

From the outset of the investigation, we’ve made the point that the quality of the findings will be driven by the thoroughness of the probe. If the Falcons admitted to talking to the players about travel arrangements, did that end the matter? Or did the league use the various admissions from Cousins as the starting point for a #Deflategate-style scorched-earth Ted Wells wild-goose chase?

We’re in the process of finding out what was, and wasn’t, done. Stay tuned.

The Falcons have no complaints after receiver a relatively minor punishment for tampering.

Shortly after the NFL announced that the Falcons would be docked a fifth-round draft pick and fined $250,000, the team released a brief statement on the matter.

“We are pleased this review is complete. We cooperated fully with the league and its review, and appreciate the NFL’s thoroughness. As we do with every process, we will review how we operate and look for ways to improve,” the Falcons’ statement said.

The league found that the Falcons violated NFL tampering rules via contact with Kirk Cousins, Darnell Mooney, and Charlie Woerner during the two-day negotiating period prior to the start of free agency. In addition to the team’s punishment, General Manager Terry Fontenot has been fined $50,000.

Both the 2025 fifth-round pick and the financial penalties were mild sanctions for tampering with three different players, and the Falcons’ statement makes clear they’re happy it’s now over with.