Over the past two weeks I’ve read and heard and watched a myriad of different reactions to the swath of cuts the Baltimore Ravens have made to veteran players and unlike the overwhelming majority of the fan base here, I understand the salary cap and how it works.
(If you have any questions, feel free to forward them along: firstname.lastname@example.org. That’s why WNST.net exists – to educate you and answer your questions about Baltimore sports.)
Bottom line: the Ravens played about $14 million over the cap last year in a “wild, wild west” uncapped NFL season. In the new post-lockout 2011 season, everyone will need to align franchise expenditures with the reality of the league. For the Ravens, that means playing with less veteran (re: well-paid) talent.
This brings us to wide receiver Derrick Mason, who has somehow at 37 years of age managed to stir up the fans of Baltimore using his Twitter account and his ever-present voice to make a case for himself as a returning veteran to the Ravens.
He was texting with John Harbaugh. He was talking about other opportunities and greener pastures. He was “shocked” by the Ravens’ cut, which had almost happened two other times over the last two years.
Here’s the truth: the Ravens didn’t want Derrick Mason anymore. And his “pick” of the New York Jets and all of the bluster that Rex Ryan blew around at the press conference about Mason electing to take “less money to play in New York” was just typical Ryanspeak.
Fact: Rex Ryan hates the Ravens more than any NFL team. He barely even speaks to me anymore because he knows I’m a Ravens fan. He stews about not getting the head coaching job every time he looks at me.
Fact: Derrick Mason wasn’t welcomed in Baltimore any more. The Ravens don’t have any cap room and felt that overspending on the clearly devalued stock of an almost-40 wide receiver wasn’t good business for them.
This was a good marriage for Mason and Ryan. It fits both of their needs to get even with the Ravens and to take the “Play Like A Jet” braggadocio to The Big Apple and potentially make another run at a Super Bowl appearance.
Oh, and the parting shot? Mason and Ryan both let it be known that they believe they have a better chance of winning the Super Bowl than the Ravens do.
And when these teams lock horns here in Baltimore eight weeks, it’s going to look like the NFL’s newest Holy War and if I could wave my magic wand and have it all work out right the Ravens would host the AFC Championship Game and play the mighty titans of New York for all the marbles here in late January.
Baltimore vs. New York? As long as it’s not baseball, I really like our chances!
And because I’ve said this before when Derrick Mason was wearing purple every week, I’ll say it again out of fairness and full disclosure. In my 16 years of chasing the Ravens all across the continent and working every locker room of every game, Mason was one of my least favorite Ravens.
It’s almost blasphemous because for most he was a media dream. He would always set up in front of his locker and welcome the lights and the cameras and the questions and would always fire off long, winding diatribes about his feelings and his insights filling notebooks and video storage devices. And I’m all for a loquacious athlete. It’s good for business all the way around.
Except in Mason’s case, I always thought it was personal and it was overkill. And he was always speaking down to the media, which in my opinion is speaking down to the fans.
Look there’s no getting around it, Derrick Mason was a helluva football player – a classic overachiever in every sense of the word and my respect for his abilities as an athlete is unquestioned. And I’m pretty sure he’s a good family man and an all-around decent human being. He did charitable things here and in Nashville and I know he really wanted to win.
But as a guy who plays on a team with 53 other guys?
You can have a 37-year old Derrick Mason, New York. He’s perfect for you!
He’s all about himself.
Don’t believe me? Well, I’ve talked to enough of his teammates and coaches over the years to know how they feel about him. Helluva player, but he’s gonna bitch loudly and unrepentantly about not getting the ball – win or lose. Many would say he’s a “typical me-first wide receiver” and that’s fine, too.
Last I checked that class full of brats — Terrell Owens, Randy Moss, Chad Johnson — all have one thing in common: nude ring fingers!
I saw Mason stew after victories – many times – because he wasn’t the biggest part of the offense that day. I’ve seen him pop off and say all sorts of things that had a very “anti-team” edge to them as I heard them. And I also remember his retirement proceedings on his agent’s website two summers ago.
Apparently, so did Joe Flacco, who amidst the Ravens’ mystery “negotiations” with Mason threw him under the bus by calling him a diva in front of the world 48 hours ago.
I think that says it all.
Sure, there will be days this fall when Flacco would’ve loved having him on 3rd and 6, but the other six days and 21 hours of the week sure sounded like an issue for some folks at The Bellagio in Owings Mills.
And I get it.
But all of this green bluster coming out of New York is just that – another chance for Mason and Ryan to take a few verbal jabs at the Ravens and Baltimore, where they weren’t welcomed anymore.
We’ll see them on Sunday night, Oct. 2 here in Baltimore.
To be continued…