Mason’s retirement leaves Ravens in a bad spot

If he holds to the decision that was reported Monday, Derrick Mason’s retirement comes at a very bad time for the Ravens.

Mason recently lost one of his close friends, Steve McNair. Mason also is 35, and he played most of last season injured. He probably feels like right now, he just can’t go again. But it wouldn’t surprise me if he has a change of heart later this summer.

In many ways, Mason holds all the cards. He knows the Ravens didn’t use an early draft pick on a wide receiver who could threaten his playing time. They also didn’t sign a free agent or trade for a premiere wideout. Keep in mind that when a player retires, he will not be fined for missing training camp. But if he’s on the active roster and just wants to sit at home and try to rekindle his fire to play, he incurs heavy fines.

Every year, we get a “retirement” announcement this time of the offseason. Camp isn’t much fun for a 35-year-old veteran.

The Ravens now have a much different set of issues to address:

  • It’s difficult enough to get through an entire camp with just the receivers on the roster. By the second week of camp, when rosters are reduced, practices are shortened or even canceled as receivers turn up with injury issues. To remove the top receiver from the equation is a big problem that can’t be solved by just signing a guy off the street.
  • Joe Flacco has developed a relationship with his top receiver. Mason led the Ravens in both receptions and touchdowns, and there is no other go-to guy on the roster — another reason a solid veteran might have to be brought in now.
  • Mason dictated coverages, and without him, defenses will take many more chances rushing the passer and disguising schemes — which means more stress for Flacco.
  • The Ravens lose some leverage with any potential trading partner that might consider dealing a receiver at this point of the year. Any team that would entertain a trade scenario just raised the asking price, knowing that Baltimore is desperate.

So what should the Ravens do after the Mason news? They could sign a veteran or two such as Marvin Harrison, Amani Toomer or even Matt Jones and make sure Flacco has some reliable receivers. The idea would then be to stay in contact with Mason over the next month and make sure he knows he’s welcomed back — even if it takes a slight salary increase to get him back in the door.

If a scenario plays out where the Ravens add another receiver and Mason does decide to play, it could be a blessing in disguise for Flacco, who would wind up with enough legitimate weapons to open up the passing attack.

— Pat Kirwan

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