NFL Nation: Mason retires

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

 Mason
 Harbaugh

We have some news to pass along as receiver Derrick Mason and Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh plan to meet soon to discuss Mason's retirement.

The Ravens were surprised by Mason's announcement Monday that he's calling it quits after 12 seasons. Mason recently said he's "99 percent" sure of his decision. But the Ravens are not fully convinced until they meet with Mason and he files the official paperwork.

Here is the full news story on ESPN.com.

Merril Hoge talks about Derrick Mason's retirement and the impact it will have on the Ravens.

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

Derrick Mason was largely a self-made player. The Tennessee Oilers had high hopes for him when they drafted him out of Michigan State with a fourth-round pick.

But they had high hopes for the other eight receivers they drafted during the span of his eight-season career with the franchise, too. None of them panned out to be anything close to what Mason was.

I don't know if there were signs that Mason was contemplating retirement. While he said in his announcement that he felt he didn't have the drive to work out like he used to, I wonder too if the recent death of his longtime teammate and friend Steve McNair may have been one of the final factors.

Mason has always seemed to be a devoted family man, and he pledged to McNair's sons he would try to fill the void in their lives.

Not blessed with great speed, Mason was well-suited for the Oilers/Titans and Ravens, playing with a grit and a toughness and was not afraid to jaw at defenders.

He could go over the top sometimes and had a little clubhouse lawyer in him.

But I found him to be a class act, a stand-up guy and an impressively productive player. His 73 receptions in 2001 ended a five-season streak in which tight endFrank Wycheck led the franchise in catches. Mason grabbed 95 passes in 2003 and 96 in 2004, the most for the franchise since Haywood Jeffries pulled in 100 as part of 1991's run-and-shoot Houston Oilers, quarterbacked by Hall of FamerWarren Moon.

Mason played for a second franchise not because the Titans didn't want him, but because his contract was drawn up like many others that collectively prompted Tennessee's 2005 salary-cap purge.

Perhaps the most impressive thing that can be said about him is that during his time in Tennessee, when the team failed over and over trying to find top options at the position, he developed into a Pro Bowl receiver. (He was a receiver for the AFC in 2003, a return man in 2000.)

The only other Titans receiver in the 12 years since the franchise drafted Mason that produced a big season by league standards was Drew Bennett, undrafted in 2001, who caught 80 passes for 1,247 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2004.

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

During the Baltimore Ravens' run to the AFC Championship Game last season, veteran receiver Derrick Mason developed into one of the team's most indispensible players.

 
  Al Bello/Getty Images
  Derrick Mason was the Ravens' leading receiver last season, catching 80 passes for 1,037 yards.

Now, the Ravens have a huge void that needs to be filled just weeks before training camp after Mason announced his retirement before the 2009 season. Here is the full report from ESPN.com senior writer John Clayton.

So what's next for the Ravens? They have major work to do in very little time.

Giving a call to veteran Marvin Harrison, who is the best free-agent receiver available, could be a good first step. In the past, signing Harrison didn't make sense for Baltimore because his skills as a possession receiver are very similar to Mason's. But with Mason gone, Harrison, if healthy, has the ability to fill that void.

The Ravens will save $3 million off their cap with Mason's retirement, making a strong play for Harrison a possibility. Baltimore also has been mentioned in several trade scenarios involving disgruntled receivers such as Brandon Marshall and Anquan Boldin in the past, but nothing ever came to fruition.

Keep in mind that Baltimore is in the process of working out a long-term deal with Pro Bowl defensive end/linebacker Terrell Suggs, which is a huge priority. Suggs currently is playing on the franchise tag and the deadline to remove it is Wednesday.

But after a decision on Suggs is final, Baltimore needs to put all of its efforts into patching up the major void Mason leaves behind. The Ravens were one game away from the Super Bowl last season and have very high expectations, and fielding a starting receiving duo of Mark Clayton and possibly Demetrius Williams simply won't cut it.

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