Ravens re-sign Mason, receiving corps upgrade

OWINGS MILLS – After weeks of haggling, the Baltimore Ravens hammered out a two-year, $8 million contract Wednesday night with veteran wide receiver Derrick Mason. With Mason returning, the Ravens have now constructed a formidable wide receiver tandem between him and three-time Pro Bowl selection Anquan Boldin.

Within the span of six days, the Ravens have quickly transformed a position of weakness into a potential area of strength by acquiring Boldin via a trade from the Arizona Cardinals and re-signing Mason.

The major beneficiary should be quarterback Joe Flacco, who had lobbied for Mason to be retained. The agreement in principle includes $3.5 million during the first year of the deal.

The contract agreement came after Mason, 36, had previously declined to sign off on two-year proposals offered before and after the start of free agency Friday. Immediately following the season when his five-year, $20 million contract expired, Mason suggested that he might retire or sign with another team.

Ultimately, neither of those scenarios unfolded. "We know exactly what we're getting with Derrick, and that's toughness," general manager Ozzie Newsome said in a statement. "Every Ravens fan knows what Derrick brings to this team. It's reliability, toughness, leadership, the fight to win and the want of the ball in the clutch times. He has a two-year history with Joe that says, ‘We know how to produce together.' They are on the same page."

For Mason, returning to Baltimore was always his best option. Despite rumored interest from the Miami Dolphins and the New England Patriots, nothing ever materialized for him in terms of visits or offers.

The deal was worked out between Ravens vice president of football administration Pat Moriarty and Mason's agent, Lamont Smith. Mason had said that he didn't want anything less than a two-year commitment, and the Ravens were amenable to that request.

Baltimore, where he has established himself as the franchise's all-time leader with 4,975 receiving yards, second in receptions with 410 and receiving touchdowns with 22, always seemed like the best fit for Mason.

"I'm getting myself ready to play football and help the Ravens win," Mason said. "But the first thing I am going to do is take my family on vacation. I'll see everybody back in Baltimore soon."

When Mason returns for the Ravens' offseason program, he will no longer have to bear the burden of being the featured wideout.

That task will fall to Boldin, but Mason still figures to be a vital part of the offense because of his production and comfort level with Flacco. The presence of both receivers should keep defenses honest.

Mason caught 73 passes for 1,028 yards and seven touchdowns last season. And he has at least 1,000 receiving yards in eight of the past nine seasons. For his career, Mason has caught 863 passes for 11,089 receiving yards and 59 touchdowns.

He ranks 14th on the NFL's all-time receptions list.

The Ravens now have Boldin, Mason, former first-round draft pick Donte' Stallworth, who was signed after the season, Mark Clayton and Demetrius Williams under contract.

They could also add a young wide receiver through the draft, but won't face any pressure to use their first-round draft pick since it's no longer a glaring need.

"This is outstanding, just great news for the Ravens," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "Our coaches are happy. Derrick's teammates are happy and you know Joe is smiling.

"We would have lost something special if Derrick had gone to another team. We have gotten better in the last couple of days."

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