Ravens' receiver options increasing

OWINGS MILLS -- The pool of free agent wide receiver candidates is deepening for the Baltimore Ravens.

Having already passed in the Randy Moss sweepstakes won by the Oakland Raiders and reportedly trailing the New York Jets in trade discussions for Washington Redskins wideout Laveraneus Coles, the Ravens are still primed to bid in a viable auction.

After the Carolina Panthers released receiver Muhsin Muhammad on Friday rather than pay him a $10 million roster bonus due next week when the free agent signing period begins, Baltimore has another intriguing option to consider.

Muhammad caught 93 passes for 1,405 yards and 16 touchdowns last season.

His availability after Carolina's failed contract restructuring talks with agent Joel Segal represents a package of size, a proven vertical threat and experience. He'll be highly sought after with possible competitors for his services including the Jacksonville Jaguars, Atlanta Falcons and Philadelphia Eagles.

The Eagles' players began recruiting Muhammad at the Pro Bowl. He averaged 15.1 yards per reception last season.

Since entering the league in 1996 out of Michigan State, Muhammad has caught 578 passes for 7,751 yards, 44 touchdowns and averaged 13.4 yards per catch.

Beyond Muhammad, the Ravens are also likely to have a strong interest in former Tennessee Titans standout Derrick Mason. He was released this week as a salary-cap casualty.

Mason, 31, has been linked in published reports to the Jaguars, Houston Texans, Jets and others. He has built a strong reputation for toughness across the middle and leadership in the locker room.

Mason has posted four consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons, averaging 81 receptions for 1,101 yards and seven touchdowns over the last five seasons with two Pro Bowl selections. Mason registered 96 receptions last season for 1,168 yards and seven touchdowns.

Former Pittsburgh Steelers starter Plaxico Burress offers imposing size at 6-foot-5 and 227 pounds, but might be too similar in style to second-year Ravens player Clarence Moore, a 6-6 red-zone target.

Burress was plagued by injuries last season and slumped to 35 catches. He missed five of Pittsburgh's last six regular-season games with a sore hamstring.

Burress' best season was in 2002 when he caught a career-high 78 passes for 1,325 yards.

Other prominent free agent receivers include: Cincinnati's T.J. Houshmandzadeh, New England's David Givens and David Patten and Detroit's Tai Streets.

Redskins starter Rod Gardner is under contract and has been authorized to seek a trade, but is viewed strictly as a possession receiver type who wouldn't make the Ravens' offense more explosive. The Ravens had the 31st-ranked passing game in the NFL last season.

With unrestricted free agent Travis Taylor expected to depart after a nondescript stint in Baltimore and the termination of Kevin Johnson's contract, all the Ravens have under contract at receiver is Moore, Devard Darling, Fred Stamps and Derek Abney.

Baltimore is expected to retain restricted free agent Randy Hymes.

Aaron Wilson is the chief writer for RavensInsider.Com He is also the Ravens' reporter for the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.

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