Mason hints at leaving Ravens

The Baltimore Sun

Pushing hard for a contract extension, Ravens wide receiver Derrick Mason intimated he would want to be released if he didn't receive one.

Mason, 35, has been the team's only dependable receiver, leading the Ravens in catches for three of his four seasons with them.

He is entering the final year of his five-year, $20 million contract. His agent has approached the Ravens about a new contract, Mason said.

"I don't know if I'm going to be back," Mason told the NFL Network last week.

He added: "So if we can get that deal done, then that will be great. But if not, then we have to explore other options after that. I don't know where this thing is going to end, but I think I've earned the right by what I've done on the field - and off the field - for the last four years with the Ravens."

General manager Ozzie Newsome declined to comment yesterday when asked whether the Ravens would consider extending Mason's contract.

But it doesn't appear the Ravens would consider releasing their No. 1 receiver. Over the past two seasons, Mason has caught 183 passes. No other Raven has more than 89 receptions during that span.

"Derrick Mason is a member of the Baltimore Ravens at this point, and we really anticipate that he will be a member of the Baltimore Ravens when the season starts," Newsome said.

The questions with Mason are his age and his consistency in stretching the field.

Only three wide receivers (Jerry Rice, Jimmy Smith and Joey Galloway) have recorded 1,000-yard seasons at 36 or older. Mason also ranked 42nd in the NFL last season in yards per catch (13.0).

The biggest problem for the Ravens is that they have few options going forward.

Their top three wide-outs - Mason, Mark Clayton and Demetrius Williams - are scheduled to become free agents at the end of the 2009 season. But none has been more valuable than Mason. Since he left the Tennessee Titans to join the Ravens, he has recorded the three highest single-season totals for catches in franchise history (103 in 2007, 86 in 2005 and 80 in 2008).

"I have one more year left on my deal, and I want to play more than one year," Mason said. "For a player, one year is no security. No security whatsoever. I think I've earned the right to go to management and let them know that I want to play more than just one year."

Last season, Mason led the Ravens with 80 receptions (which tied for 16th in the NFL) for 1,037 yards and five touchdowns despite playing the entire second half of the season with a shoulder injury.

Three weeks ago, he had surgery to fix his scapula and the labrum in his left shoulder. He expects to be ready to participate in offseason minicamps in May.

"It wasn't a bad injury at all," said Mason, who hasn't missed a game since 2002. "Not as bad as it could have been."

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