Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Mason Announces Retirement

Derrick Mason announced his abrupt retirement yesterday, telling ESPN News, "This is a decision that I've made. If I do change my mind, it won't be because of the Ravens. It'll be because of some other things - my family and talking with other people. I still got to talk with some coaches over there. As far as financially, I don't think they can do anything to sway me."

Earlier this offseason, Mason wanted a contract extension. Could this be a negotiating ploy? Maybe, but it's doubtful according to what Mason told the media. And with Steve McNair's recent murder, Mason may have taken another look at his life and decided that there was more to it than just football.

It's hard to get upset with Mason if that is the case, but it still leaves the Ravens in a massive hole. Training camp starts in 2 weeks and the Ravens didn't address the WR position this offseason other than signing Kelley Washington. And losing Mason is a huge step backwards.

Over the course of 4 seasons with the Ravens, Mason averaged 986 receiving yards and almost 4 TD's. Not huge numbers, but Mason was the Ravens go-to WR over that time. He ran perfect routes and had great hands. And there is no one on the Ravens currently able to fill his shoes.

Mark Clayton is poised to have a big year, continuing to develop with QB Joe Flacco, but Clayton is far from a #1 WR. He made some acrobatic catches last year, but is still inconsistent, disappearing for games at a time. That said, unless the Ravens do something drastic, he will be the Ravens #1 WR by default and will have to step up.

Demetrius Williams has the speed and height to break-out in 2009, but his injury issues have kept him out of 16 games over the last 2 years. Kelley Washington impressed the Ravens during their WR workout earlier this offseason, but Washington has only caught 10 passes in the NFL over the last 3 years. Then there is Marcus Smith, a second year WR out of New Mexico, who didn't catch a pass in 2008. What he brings to the table is unknown.

To say the Ravens WR options beyond Clayton are limited is an understatement. And their options outside the organization just as limited.

There was talk of trading for Broncos troubled WR Brandon Marshall earlier this offseason, but Marshall is dealing with some severe off-the-field troubles. Then there is another troubled WR in Plaxico Burress. No team has had the guts to sign Burress, coming off an embarrassing nightclub incident in which he shot himself in the leg last November. As with Marshall, a Burress suspension could be imminent, so its unknown how many games the Ravens would have them for in 2009.

Beyond Marshall and Burress, the available wide-receivers are replacement level talent. When the Ravens signed Washington, they also tried out DJ Hackett, Tab Perry and Jerry Porter. Among those names, Porter is the most enticing, but his injury issues are worrisome. And in 10 games last year with the Jaguars, he caught only 11 passes, for 181 yards and 1 TD.

The retirement of Mason leaves Flacco's development up in the air as well. Without Mason, Flacco doesn't have a security blanket that he offered Flacco in 2008. So, unless Mason is posturing for a contract extension, the Ravens will be entering the 2009 season extremely shorthanded.

I wish Mason the best, and if his retirement was brought on by McNair's murder, it's understandable. There is more to life than just football, and we, as fans, have trouble remembering that at times.

But Mason's decision to retire has knocked Ravens from Super Bowl Contenders to a fringe playoff team.

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