Ravens receivers expect reshuffling

It's difficult to get a handle on which pass catchers will be back with the team next season

January 19, 2010|By Jamison Hensley | jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

Question marks abound as the Ravens' wide receivers cleared out their lockers Monday. Derrick Mason doesn't know whether he is going to retire (again), Kelley Washington doesn't know whether he'll go elsewhere in free agency and Demetrius Williams doesn't know whether the team wants him back.

But the receivers have a sense of how everything is going to play out in the end.

"In the position that we're in, we're probably going to end up having to find a guy that is going to be able to come in and be a straight playmaker," wide receiver Mark Clayton said.

The lack of a playmaking receiver was a major reason the Ravens finished 18th in the NFL in passing, and it might have been a factor in their playoff exit.

The Ravens' wide receivers made just two catches for more than 20 yards in the final four games, none in the postseason. As a team, the Ravens totaled six drops in the 20-3 divisional-round playoff loss at Indianapolis.

"We certainly had a lot of room for improvement," said Clayton, who expects to return to the Ravens as a restricted free agent in an uncapped year. "There were so many more plays to be made that we didn't make. That would have definitely propelled us further had we made plays on the outside. I thought we should have been a lot better."

But overhauling the wide receiver position would be a detriment to quarterback Joe Flacco, Mason said.

"To bring in four or five new faces to a quarterback, that's kind of hard," Mason said. "There will be some turnover. Hopefully, the people they bring in here can help Joe out and help with his continued growth in this sport."

Mason is unsure whether he will be part of the turnover. In his most bizarre interview since joining the Ravens, Mason flip-flopped between announcing his retirement and returning to win a Super Bowl over the period of 11 questions.

Without being asked a question, Mason arrived at his locker and made this declaration to reporters: "All right, I'm done. This is my last season, seriously. I'm done. I'm done. I'm going to say it again. This is it."

Asked whether this was a definitive announcement of retirement, Mason responded that he couldn't make one because he hadn't won a Super Bowl yet. The pending free agent also said there was "always a chance" that he would finish his career here.

Mason, who retired for 20 days last summer, indicated that he would make his decision "quickly and definitively."

"It's still up in the air. It really is," he said. "Right now, it's one of those situations where you go home and you think about it. You weigh the pros and the cons. If the pros outweigh the cons, then that's how you make your decision."

Mason performed unevenly in the final four games, totaling 13 catches for 172 yards and no touchdowns. But the rest of the Ravens' receivers struggled more, combining for eight catches for 90 yards and no touchdowns.

Flacco said it would be "huge" if Mason returned.

"If he's talking whether he is or isn't, usually those guys end up coming back," Flacco said. "We're definitely wanting Derrick back."

Clayton thinks there is a chance Mason would retire.

"I know how competitive he is, but I know his priorities," he said. "At the end of the day, the most important thing is your family."

Along with Mason, Washington is an unrestricted free agent in March.

In his first season with the Ravens, Washington set career highs with 34 catches for 480 yards. He expects to look around to see whether he has a chance to be more than a No. 3 wide receiver.

"I'm going to put myself in the best situation where I'm going to be out there on the field, not just on third down," Washington said. "I feel like I proved that I can play receiver in this league now as well as special teams. Now, I'm going to look out for myself."

Williams, the little-used fourth-round pick, might have a chance to look elsewhere if the Ravens don't want him. In an uncapped year, he would be a restricted free agent, which means the Ravens can keep him by tendering him a contract offer.

It's unknown whether the Ravens are thinking of bringing back Williams. After being leapfrogged by Washington on the depth chart, he was rarely used on offense, finishing with eight catches for 142 yards.

Asked about his future, he said: "I don't know. I'm just trying to go somewhere where they want me."

Williams didn't endear himself to the coaching staff when he extended just one arm out for a fourth-down pass in Saturday's loss at Indianapolis.

"Joe got the ball out quick, and I didn't get out of my break fast enough," Williams said. "It is what it is. The season is over now."

Whether the wide receivers return intact or not, Washington said this group could leave with a sense of satisfaction.

"We match up well with any receiver group in this league," he said. "Coming into this year, we were looked at as the weak link of the team. Week in and week out, we showed that we could play with anybody. Nobody gave us a chance, but we showed everybody that we were one of the best core groups of the team and the league."

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