NFC North: Chris Gamble

If you hope your NFC North teams adds a cornerback or safety, you'll want to review ESPN.com's redesigned and updated Free-Agent Tracker for some context on a series of moves Friday that added significantly to a marketplace that in essence opens in a matter of hours.

Our guys at Scouts Inc. rate Chris Gamble, released by the Carolina Panthers, as the top cornerback available in free agency. Another veteran cornerback without a team is Aaron Ross, who was let go by the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Meanwhile, two starting-caliber safeties were released Friday: the Arizona Cardinals' Adrian Wilson and the Jaguars' Dawan Landry.

With Louis Delmas set to test free agency, according to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, the Lions would seem to be in the market for a safety. The same could be said at cornerback if they do not re-sign Chris Houston. A safety wouldn't be a bad idea for the Minnesota Vikings or Chicago Bears either.

Teams can start negotiating with pending free agents (or at least their agents) after midnight tonight. No deals can be official until Tuesday. We'll keep you updated.

BBAO: Race and Jordy Nelson's success

November, 17, 2011
11/17/11
7:40
AM ET
We're Black and Blue All Over:

Why is Green Bay Packers receiver Jordy Nelson having a breakout season? He knows the Packers' offense backwards and forwards. He has a good relationship with quarterback Aaron Rodgers. He's big enough to outmuscle many defensive backs. He's cut back on the drops and fumbles that plagued him in earlier years. He's fast.

Oh, and he's white.

That final attribute was one that Packers receiver Greg Jennings and others expounded on in this story from Jason Wilde of ESPNMilwaukee.com. Here's how Jennings put it:
"They underestimate him. And honestly, he uses that to his advantage. Seriously … a lot of it has to do with the fact that guys look at him and say, 'OK, he's the white guy, he can't be that good.' Well, he is that good. He's proven to be that good and it's because of the work and the time that he’s put in -- not only on the field but in his preparation off the field."

Defenders have at times allowed Nelson's speed to catch them off guard. He has two of the five longest receptions in the NFL this season, touchdowns of 93 and 84 yards, and overall is averaging 18.6 yards per catch.

Were they simply beat by a good player? Or was their approach to defending Nelson somehow influenced by long-held stereotypes about speed and race? Whoa. That's too heavy of an issue to get into before 8 a.m. ET on a Thursday. But I can tell you this: Jennings is a thoughtful and relatively drama-free person. If he brought up the topic, it wasn't to make a splash. He truly believes it, and he's closer to it than us.

Continuing around the NFC North:
  • Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers: "It has almost become rote for Rodgers to do what so many other quarterbacks can't, and it speaks directly to the success the Packers have had offensively this season."
  • The Packers are still hurting from a 2009 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, notes Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette.
  • The Chicago Bears will find out how much progress offensive lineman Edwin Williams has made since last year, writes Sean Jensen of the Chicago Sun-Times. Williams will replace injured starter Chris Williams (wrist) at left guard.
  • David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune reviews Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher's late-career renaissance.
  • Neither Bears quarterback Jay Cutler nor San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers had much to say about their personal relationship Wednesday, writes a disappointed Jon Greenberg of ESPNChicago.com.
  • Carolina Panthers cornerback Chris Gamble could provide a challenge for Detroit Lions receiver Calvin Johnson this weekend, writes Justin Rogers of Mlive.com.
  • The Lions were encouraged to have running back Jahvid Best (concussion) back on the sideline during practice, according to Carlos Monarrez of the Detroit Free Press.
  • Lions backup quarterback Shaun Hill on Bears cornerback D.J. Moore's charge at Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford: "I think he got his feelings hurt more than anything. He got his feelings hurt that he got dish-ragged by a quarterback." John Niyo of the Detroit News has more.
  • Mark Craig of the Star Tribune: "Vikings coach Leslie Frazer essentially issued a public challenge to all defensive players not named Jared Allen to start making some head-turning plays."
  • Brian Murphy of the St. Paul Pioneer Press: "It is hard to remain invisible when one stands 6 feet 2 and weighs 318 pounds, but it has been difficult to detect Vikings nose tackle Remi Ayodele on the field this season either through production or deployment."
  • The Vikings re-signed cornerback Benny Sapp, whom they traded to the Miami Dolphins last season. Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com has more.

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