Ravens acquire Mason to fill glaring need

OWINGS MILLS -- The Baltimore Ravens agreed in principle to a five-year contract with veteran wide receiver Derrick Mason, filling the team's most glaring need.

Financial terms weren't immediately available.

The Ravens ranked 31st in passing last season.

"We were high on his list, and he was high on our list," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "He was really the only receiver we have had any active discussions with thus far. What this does is we bring in a veteran receiver who has the type of attitude and type of personality that we look for in a football player.

"When we talked with coach [Jim] Fassel about what we needed to add to this team, he thought we needed some quickness and Derrick provides that. He also provides a mentor for our young receivers."

Mason, 31, is a two-time Pro Bowl selection who was recently cut by the Tennessee Titans as a salary-cap casualty.

Mason led all NFL wide receivers last season with 96 receptions to produce 1,168 yards and seven touchdowns.

With 11,202 career all-purpose yards, Mason ranks second in Titans history to running back Eddie George.

The former Michigan State standout has caught 453 career passes for 6,114 yards and 37 touchdowns. Originally a return specialist who has returned one kickoff and two punts for touchdowns, Mason has been a starting receiver for four seasons.

"The signing of Derrick Mason is the most substantial move we've made particularly in free agency, particularly at the wide receiver position," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "When you take someone of Derrick Mason's caliber, you expect it to have an impact."

Newsome didn't rule out acquiring more help at receiver to bolster a unit that was the only team in the NFL not to have a receiver catch 40 passes. "If a receiver becomes available, we won't just pass on him," Newsome said. "It has to be at our price."

Mason is scheduled to take a physical Thursday morning at the Ravens' training complex.

Newsome indicated that the Ravens remain in contract discussions with cornerback Gary Baxter, who has started a team-high 46 consecutive games for Baltimore, and will concentrate on acquiring an offensive guard.

"We're in discussions with Gary and hopefully things can work out, but right now he's exposed to 31 other teams so we don't know," Newsome said. With center Casey Rabach agreeing to terms with the Washington Redskins, Mike Flynn will reclaim his starting job at center after missing most of last season with a broken collarbone. The Ravens signed Flynn to an $11.25 million contract last year that included a $4 million signing bonus. "Basically, we made a commitment with Mike Flynn a year ago," Newsome said.

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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