Is The Mason Issue Really An Issue?

March 10, 2009 | Thyrl Nelson

Is Derrick Mason’s Extension Demand Another Off-Season Obstacle For The Ravens, Or A Chance For Both Sides To Pick Up a Win?


How many times have players called Ozzie Newsome to the negotiating table and lost? It’s almost too many to count. Especially in the wake of Ozzie’s off-season winning spree, players, you’d think, would be wary of beckoning Newsome to the bargaining table. If the rumblings around town are correct though, it appears that Derrick Mason may be doing just that.


Mason may be in a better position than many who have tried their hands before him. He’s the best of a weak lot at wide receiver for the team right now, a position that they’re likely hoping to upgrade, so losing him at this point would certainly represent a big setback to that effort. Further, if the Ravens are looking to upgrade that position through the draft, with young talent, than having Mason around to mentor them seems to be the best option.


Personally, I’ll always regard Mason as one of my favorite Ravens. In an era where many professional athletes give as much consideration to piling on with a winner as getting paid when negotiating free agent deals, especially late in their careers, Mason shunned the Patriots for the Ravens. The money was reportedly pretty equal, and in the Patriots, Mason had the chance to join Tom Brady and the AFC’s offensive juggernaut. Instead he opted to take a chance on the Ravens and Kyle Boller and Brian Billick, and never complained when the unit was being overhauled either. For my money he’s the anti Teixeira, the anti Gary Payton.


At 35, Mason may be looking at the way that he’s played for the last 2 seasons as a godsend; and coming off of his storied one armed performance last season, in which he was instrumental to the development of Joe Flacco, the timing will probably never be any better for Mason to negotiate his last contract. The timing could be good for the Ravens too if they approach it the right way, and given their track record, you’d expect that they would.


Mason, in the final year of his contract has a $4.4 million cap number for 2009. Because of the way most NFL contracts work, that $4.4 million is mostly salary, and therefore expendable under the cap. Cutting Mason or renegotiating him, would free up his $3 million base salary for next season, leaving the team a $1.4 million cap hit. They could take that hit all at once next season, half and half over the next 2 seasons, or work it into whatever new deal they negotiate. In any regard, it represents a chance to save money against the cap.


If the Ravens bring Mason back through 2011 with an extension, they would certainly be able to save some money on the base salary portion of his contract, and likely his overall cap number for this season. If they decide not to negotiate with him, he probably has little choice but to play next season for another contract, and may or may not decide to exclude the Ravens from negotiations when he does become a free agent at the end. Or they may decide to simply take the savings now, not knowing exactly how healthy that shoulder will be in 2009, and recoup $3 million in cap savings this year. If they decided to do that, the line in the sand was clearly drawn by Mason in the first place, leaving the Ravens open to little PR backlash, if any.


The potential downsides are there in every scenario too. The Ravens could underestimate Mason’s value, allow him to walk, and have him come back to burn them. They could elect to extend him, and never get the production that they’ll have to pay for in doing so. Or they could elect to either let it ride, or even to negotiate with him, and run the risk of insulting or alienating him. That’s why Newsome makes the big bucks.


In an off-season ripe with drama for the team, this seems like a small bump in the road by comparison. It is though, an issue that will have to be dealt with in some capacity. If the line in the sand has truly been drawn, then electing not to deal with it is one way of dealing with it too.


Given the track record of the team in previous negotiations, Mason has found himself a formidable opponent in Newsome and the Ravens. Mason’s own track record would seem to dictate that the Ravens owe him a certain amount of respect if nothing else, maybe even more so than players who have been here longer or seemingly given more. From the outside it looks like there could be a chance for both sides to win. Time will tell.