Mason's Return a Plus for Flacco

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There are a lot of positive aspects to Derrick Mason's two-year contract with the Ravens, but the sentiment around team headquarters in Owings Mills, Md., generally fall back on his familiarity with the team.

Sure, Mason is still producing at an elite level, and brings toughness and leadership, but his relationship with quarterback Joe Flacco sweetens the deal.

"I think the most important part in that is the confidence that Joe has in Derrick," said Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron. "Everybody was excited when Derrick signed that contract. First on that list, I can guarantee you, was Joe Flacco. There's really no quarterback in this league that wants to lose that production."

Clearly, everyone in purple and black has a high comfort level when it comes to Mason.

During Flacco's first two years, Mason was his top chain-mover. Mason, 36, totaled 153 receptions for 2,065 yards and 12 touchdowns over that span. He also logged 115 first downs.

To Cameron, the chemistry manifested itself during Flacco's initial preseason start, against the St. Louis Rams on Aug. 23, 2008.

On the Ravens first drive of the second half, Flacco found Mason on 8-, 8- and 30-yard completions before hitting him with a 15-yard touchdown dart.

"They've had a good feel for each other since Day 1," stated Cameron. "He and Derrick have had very few hiccups since then."

With Flacco developing in his third year under Cameron's system, a steady and experienced voice on the field will be critical throughout the offseason, especially as the Ravens attempt to bring new additions Anquan Boldin and Donte' Stallworth into the fold.

The Ravens' offseason conditioning program begins on Monday, March 15, and minicamps are not too far after that, meaning Flacco will get lots of time to prepare with his targets of 2010.

"To keep somebody like Derrick who already has a relationship with Joe means we have one less guy to worry about," receivers coach Jim Hostler said. "It's a huge bonus for us to have Derrick back with two years of development with the quarterback. He has the trust and understands what Joe can and can't do. We know his strengths and weaknesses."

To his teammates, having Mason in the locker room is a plus, as well. His leadership through five years with the Ravens, and 13 years in the NFL, should go unquestioned.

Mason was a key mentor for former first-round draft pick Mark Clayton. And, with the Ravens still able to add another receiver through the upcoming draft, he will be called upon again.

"It was his passion and commitment, two very powerful things that I can confidently say he possessed," Clayton explained. "Not just vocally. Everybody saw that. 'Mase' was certainly an influence and inspiration to me. There have been times when it's been tough and you didn't want to go in, but you knew 85 was going to be at the facility. He's been doing that for years.

"He taught me to love the ride and enjoy what you do."

What does the signing mean for Mason's production moving forward? Will the addition of Boldin, projected to be the team's No. 1 receiver, and the speedy Stallworth open thing up for him?

According to Hostler, not necessarily.

But, the Ravens do know what they are going to get with Mason. And that one of the reasons the Ravens are smiling.

"The more good players you have, the more teams have to worry about them," said Hostler. "Obviously, having a player like Anquan opposite Derrick will help from that standpoint, because we have more weapons. Ray Rice, Willis McGahee, Todd Heap, all of those guys present problems for defenses. It will help.

"Will Derrick have a better year? That's solely based on his offseason, training camp and his ability to go through the season healthy and competing every week. It's still going to be based off him. He has to prepare himself to play the way he did last year and the year before."

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