After missing on Floyd, Ravens need to nab Mason

Twenty-four hours ago, the Ravens appeared poised to bolster their wide receiving corps by adding a 6-foot-5 playmaker who has the ability to stretch the field.

Things have changed a bit since then.

Once thought of as the frontrunners for Malcom Floyd, the top wide receiver available on the free agent, the Ravens were spurned yesterday.

Floyd chose to re-sign with the Chargers for a reported two years and $5 million, a figure that the Ravens might not have been able to match because of salary cap issues.

Now, the Ravens are in scramble mode. Their hope at this point is that they can convince Derrick Mason, who was cut for salary cap purposes a week and a half ago, to swallow a bit of pride and return to Baltimore at a discount rate from his original $4.5 million salary.

Mason, while still a decent offensive threat because of his polished route running, is now much more valuable to the Ravens than he seemed to be before Floyd left the boys of Baltimore in the lurch.

Here's why: if Mason decides to sign with one of the two other teams interested in him (the Jets and Titans), Baltimore would be left without a proven receiving threat on its roster behind Anquan Boldin, and with few other options to replace the missing production.

The list of free agent wide receivers still available is short and not very talent-rich. Jerricho Cotchery, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Steve Smith (the former Giant, not the current Panther), Terrell Owens, and former Raven Mark Clayton are the top names still available, and all but Houshmandzadeh are coming off injuries.

Quarterback Joe Flacco already lost one of his favorite targets this offseason, when tight end Todd Heap signed with the Cardinals. If Mason leaves town, as well, that would be over 1,400 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns (numbers Heap and Mason combined for in 2010) that the Ravens would be missing from last season.

Head coach John Harbaugh expressed confidence in his young group of wide receivers yesterday, including rookies Torrey Smith and Tandon Doss. Both 2011 draft picks have looked sharp thus far in training camp, and might very well have bright futures ahead of them.

But, for now, the Ravens must - with a capital "M" - bring in a receiver with some experience that can give Flacco another reliable pair of hands and take some of the pressure off Boldin. They can't rely on Smith, Doss, Ed Dickson and David Reed to pick up the slack left by a 15-year veteran wide receiver and a two-time Pro Bowl tight end.

As of right now, Mason is by far the best option available, and the fact that he's comfortable in Cam Cameron's offense and has a rapport with Flacco makes him a must-get from the Ravens' perspective.

Another veteran wideout might become available later on in training camp, and a trade is a possibility. But the Ravens can't paint themselves into a corner and be forced to give up too much - either in the form of money or trade compensation - later on down the road.

Mason returning to Baltimore makes sense for both sides. Now, the Ravens have to cross their fingers and hope that the 37-year-old wideout who they cut just 11 days ago is willing to move past any bitterness he might be holding onto, and come back for another shot at a title.

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