When I ask people who they think the best receiver in Ravens history is, I typically get one of two answers: Anquan Boldin or Steve Smith Sr. The former played lights out during our Superbowl run and will be remembered as a pivotal part of a lot of fans’ favorite moment in sports. The latter, Smith, is the most decorated receiver the team has ever had. He played with an attitude and hunger the fans adored, and produced on the field despite being at the tail end of his career when he was acquired. Both played with a high level of toughness and grit, and both are good answers to the question. Derrick Mason keeps up with the theme of gritty Ravens receivers, while also holding an abundance of franchise records. The “best” receiver in the team’s history is subjective, but Mason has my personal vote.
If you follow the team even casually then you’re already familiar with the narrative that the Ravens never sign their top receivers when they’re in their prime. The front office seems to look at wide receivers like a fine wine that gets better with age, and 30 seems to be the age where the cork finally gets popped. Mason was no exception to this rule, as he played 8 years with the Oilers/Titans before signing with Baltimore in 2005 at the age of 31. The purpose of these segments is to highlight the players’ time spent on the Ravens, so I’ll keep this next part short, but Mason had a prolific career in Tennessee that can’t be ignored. Though he was an electric punt and kick returner, he wasn’t much of a factor in the passing game until the 2000 season. In that year he broke out for just under 900 yards, while still handling his special teams duties. He finished the year with 2,690 total yards, which was an NFL record at the time. On top of all of that, he was also supposed to be the player who returned the “Music City Miracle”, but was out with a concussion. He followed that up with 4 straight seasons of 1000+ yards and 5+ touchdowns through the air, before signing with us in 2005.
Mason was a bit of a hot commodity when he arrived, and he didn’t disappoint. Though he was stuck with Kyle Boller throwing him passes, Mason broke the franchise record with 86 catches in his first year with the team. Throughout his time in Baltimore, he continued to be a safe option for Boller, McNair, and Joe Flacco. He worked the sidelines particularly well, and developed chemistry with Flacco during his rookie season. During that year he separated his shoulder against the Houston Texans, but continued to suit up for every game. Throughout his 14 full seasons in the league, Mason missed only 6 games. He never missed a game in Baltimore, despite being banged up pretty bad on numerous occasions. Mason played for 2 more years after Joe’s rookie season, averaging 915 yards and 7 touchdowns in those years. Following the 2010 season, he was a released to save cap space. He played 12 more games for the Texans and Jets before signing a one day contract to retire a Raven at the age of 38. To this day, Mason claims 3 of the top 4 single-season reception records in franchise history, as well as multiple other records that’ll be highlighted below.
Stats That Matter
Derrick Mason’s best attribute is his consistency. Since breaking out in 2000, he never had a full season with less than 750 yards. He broke 1000 receiving yards 8 times, but only passed 1200 once. With Mason, you knew what you were going to get. He’s a reliable target who’s going to get you somewhere around 90 catches, 1100 yards, and 5 or 6 touchdowns. Obviously those aren’t Antonio Brown level numbers, but with the team being focused around defense and the running game, along with some less than ideal QB play, I’d take a guy like Mason any day. His important statistics include:
- 943 career receptions (18th all time)
- 12,061 career receiving yards (26th all time)
- 66 career receiving touchdowns
- 5,777 receiving yards in Baltimore (Franchise record)
- 471 receptions in Baltimore (Franchise record)
- 103 receptions in 2007 (Franchise record)
- 4 seasons of 1000+ yards in Baltimore (Franchise record)
- 2,690 all-purpose yards in 2000 (Then NFL record, 2nd now)
- 14 consecutive seasons of 700+ all-purpose yards (NFL record, tied with Terrell Owens)
- Only player in NFL history with 10,000+ receiving yards and 5,000+ return yard
While Mason was consistently good, he didn’t have any seasons that completely stood out from the rest. Though very reliable, he wasn’t particularly flashy, especially when his return ability diminished, and because of that he didn’t make many pro-bowls. He also had a relatively low touchdown total when compared to his high volume of catches, which takes him out of the running for things like all-pro nominations and the hall of fame. That said, Mason accomplished a lot of great things in his career, some of which include:
- 1x All-Pro (2000)
- 2x Pro Bowl (2000, 2003)
- 1x AFC Champion (1999)
- 15,000 all-purpose yards club
- 10,000 receiving yards club
- 1x NFL punt return yards leader (2000)
- 1x NFL all-purpose yards leader (2000)
Most Memorable Moment
The most memorable moments of Mason’s career unfortunately never happened. As mentioned above, he was supposed to be on the receiving end of the Music City Miracle, one of the most iconic moments in league history, but was subbed out due to injury. Before that, his team came up one yard short of sending the 1999-2000 Superbowl into overtime. Mason was on the receiving end of Steve McNair’s 30,000th pass yard, but that’s more of a testament to the late great than it is to Mason. When all was said and done, it came down to personal preference, and I think this 62 yard touchdown epitomizes what kind of player Mason is. He takes a HUGE hit and manages to not only stay on his feet, but run half the length of the field and score before going down due to injury. This was the first regular season game I attended in person, and its the moment I think of when I remember Derrick Mason.
Where is he Now?
Unfortunately, like many former NFL players, Mason has found himself in recent legal troubles. Mason was arrested in October of 2017 for a felony aggravated domestic assault and misdemeanor vandalism charge. The incident was allegedly in relation to an altercation with a woman he had been dating. She claimed she wanted to end the relationship and Mason got violent.
However, the woman changed her story at the preliminary hearing in December. She claimed to be drunk on the day of the event, and admitted that Mason didn’t hit her. The felony was lowered to a misdemeanor and the vandalism charge was dropped.
Though he retired a Raven, Mason certainly still considers Tennessee his home. After retiring in 2012, Mason decided to continue his love for the game. He was hired as a receiving coach in a Nashville Highschool just weeks after retirement. On top of that, he is also the host of a mid-day radio show on 102.5 the Game, a radio station based in Nashville.