Looking at Ravens' other needs

Defensive end, tight end, more draft picks on list

March 06, 2010|by Jamison Hensley | Baltimore Sun reporter

The acquisition of wide receiver Anquan Boldin hasn't eliminated the return of Derrick Mason, but the Ravens no longer consider Mason a priority in free agency, a league source said.

Mason, 36, an unrestricted free agent, has been the Ravens' top wide receiver for the past five seasons.

Before free agency began Friday, it looked like Mason would come back to the Ravens because both sides were agreeable to a two-year contract. But Mason chose to test the free-agent market and ultimately lost his leverage Friday, when the Ravens traded third-ƒ|and fourth-round draft picks for Boldin and a fifth-rounder.

Mason and Boldin are similar-type receivers who will make the tough catch underneath but won't stretch defenses deep down the field. The Ravens would still want to bring back Mason because he would be a solid No. 2 wide receiver and would continue to upgrade a group of Boldin, Donte' Stallworth and Mark Clayton.

There's no urgency to pursue Mason because he hasn't drawn heavy interest in free agency. The New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins have reportedly contacted Mason, but there have been no visits scheduled.

There's even a possibility that the Ravens could wait until after the draft to re-sign Mason. The Ravens may take a wide receiver in the first two rounds, but they would need to add a veteran target if they fail to draft a young one.

Mason's agent has not returned messages from The Baltimore Sun the past two days.

Mason has been one of the top free-agent pickups in team history since joining the Ravens in 2005. He ranks second on the Ravens in career catches and has produced three seasons with 80 or more catches (no other Raven has caught more than 76 passes in a season).

Last summer, Mason abruptly retired for 20 days before returning early in training camp. He finished with 73 receptions (second on the team) and struggled in the playoffs with five catches.

Here are the Ravens' needs after the first two days of free agency:

Address defensive end. Dwan Edwards could come back, but he is looking elsewhere at this point. He visited the Seattle Seahawks on Saturday and next will meet with the Denver Broncos. The Ravens still have a shot at Edwards because other teams could be leery of giving him a big contract since he had a spinal fusion in 2008. The Ravens need a contingency plan if they lose Edwards. Trevor Pryce probably can't handle the workload as a starter. The intriguing free agents are: Adewale Ogunleye, Jevon Kearse, Reggie Hayward and Tyler Brayton. Look for a No. 2 tight end. The L.J. Smith experiment flopped miserably. While the Ravens can use Chris Chester in the blocking tight end role again, they still could use another pass-catching option (like Daniel Wilcox in the past). The team could take a tight end in the first two rounds, but the Ravens usually don't like having such holes entering the draft.

The top ones available in free agency are: Ben Watson, Alge Crumpler, Chris Baker and Reggie Kelly. The Ravens were high on Crumpler in the 2001 draft before taking Todd Heap.

Pick up more draft picks. After the Boldin trade, the Ravens have only five draft picks (their seventh-round pick goes to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the 2008 trade for Marques Douglas). This is a very deep draft, so the Ravens want as many picks as possible. The Ravens probably will get at least one compensatory pick. The lower-than-expected tenders to three restricted free agents (Clayton, offensive tackle Jared Gaither and quarterback Troy Smith) seem like the Ravens are enticing teams to make them offers for these players.

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