Even though he has hinted at retirement, wideout Derrick Mason is not averse to coming back to play for the Ravens.
The good news for Baltimore's receiving corps is that the feeling is mutual.
Both general manager Ozzie Newsome and head coach John Harbaugh have expressed their desire to have Mason on the roster heading into the 2010 campaign.
"That depends on contract things and where he's at as far as his career, but we're going to try to do everything we can to get Derrick back," Harbaugh said at the Ravens' season-ending press conference.
But a one-year contract is not going to be enough to get Mason back to Baltimore.
In an interview with BaltimoreRavens.com, Mason said he would need a two-year commitment to begin a 14th season.
"I'm weighing my options to potentially come back and play," Mason said this week. "My thought pattern is that if there's no need to come back for one year, then there's no need to come back. It has to be for more than one year. I'm not just going to come back for one year and let it be at that. If I came back, it would be for more than one year."
There is a good chance that will be with the Ravens, though. When he made his initial – and tentative – announcement on Jan. 18, Mason remained pro-purple.
"There's always a chance," he stated at the time. "I can't tell you that right now. I enjoy this locker room, I enjoy the guys in the locker room and I enjoy this coaching staff. I enjoy playing here, and l enjoy living here. I could see myself, if I choose to, coming back and finishing out my career here."
And after a stellar five-year run in Baltimore, where he set a franchise record with 4,975 receiving yards, Mason could be a hot commodity.
Set to become an unrestricted free agent on March 5, the two-time Pro Bowler is among a shrunken pool of players that will enjoy UFA status in an uncapped 2010 campaign.
Coming off his third consecutive 1,000-yard season, Mason, 36, is still playing at a high level. Mason led all Ravens receivers with 1,028 receiving yards off 73 catches in 2009. He added seven touchdowns.
"I think my numbers speak for themselves," he said. "The way I've played in the five years I've been with the Ravens, I think I've only gotten better. I'll allow my performance speak for itself. I'm not going to worry about what's happening with the [collective bargaining agreement]. I can't control that."
Even though he admitted it would be difficult to leave Baltimore, Mason would still be open to playing with another club if he returns to the game.
"There is a high possibility that I might be playing for somebody else. I understand that and I accept it," noted Mason. "If the Ravens can't offer me a contract and bring me back, then there's nothing I can do about it. I did what they asked me to do for the five years I was there, and I love the organization. I can't worry about if one team doesn't want me. But I think there are 31 other teams out there that need a veteran that is still playing at a high level."
Mason's current retirement thoughts come under much different circumstances than last year, when he underwent shoulder surgery shortly after the Ravens lost in the AFC Championship game. He labored through an offseason of rehabilitation before abruptly declaring his retirement in mid-July.
Mason then changed his mind and reported to training camp three weeks after his original announcement.
At this point, however, Mason affirmed that he is perfectly healthy and looking forward to a typical training regimen.
Mason, who said he is presently resting rather than working out, hopes to reach a verdict soon in order to join a team for an offseason program – or not.
"I want to make a decision quickly," Mason explained. "But, it all depends if the situation is right. If I'm back in Baltimore, or anywhere else, it all depends on the situation and what teams are out there that I'm considering. If I've made the decision that I'm coming back, and there's a team that has an opportunity to make the Super Bowl, then I'll make my decision.
"I'm not going to rush the decision, but I'm not going to draw it out either."
The Ravens and Mason could be an excellent match for a second time.
He has a solid relationship with quarterback Joe Flacco, and with the Ravens potentially adding a receiver or two through the draft, Mason's leadership would be invaluable.
Still, Mason said he has not spoken with general manager Ozzie Newsome and head coach John Harbaugh since cleaning out his locker one month ago.
So what is Mason's prediction for the future?
"At the end of the season, I felt good vibes from Ozzie and coach Harbaugh, but things change in this business," said Mason. "I might have gotten good vibes two months ago, but the vibes might be different. I don't know, but I trust that whatever decisions they make, they're making them for the best of the team. I've been through this before."