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For years, Todd Heap was a major part of the Baltimore Ravens sometimes shaky passing attack. Starting in the 2002 season, after being used in a limited role as a rookie in 2001, Heap was the security blanket for a number of Ravens quarterbacks.
Although he suffered from injuries in 2004 and 2007, Heap had managed to stay healthy as he passed the age of 30. Ravens fans grew to love the tight end during his time in Baltimore, and his release, despite the presence of emerging players at the tight end position in Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta, came as a huge surprise to Baltimore fans.
Todd Heap, however, was not the only key member of the receiving corps Ravens brass chose to part ways with. Derrick Mason, one of the NFL's most quietly consistent receivers over the past decade, was also cut. In his six seasons with the Ravens, Mason put together four 1,000-yard seasons.
At 37, Mason is definitely beginning to feel the effects of age. Speed, however, was never a huge part of Mason's skill set. Yes, he was fast. As an NFL receiver, he obviously can run, but what made him so effective was his ability to run crisp, precise routes and develop chemistry with his quarterbacks.
The release of these players is not surprising in itself. It is surprising in what it signals. These cuts signal a necessary change in the Ravens passing attack. The new tight ends, Dickson and Pitta, bring a downfield dimension that Heap never had. Derrick Mason's exit coincides with the arrival of Lee Evans and Torrey Smith, two speed merchants.
The Ravens offense has evolved very deliberately from its days as the team's weakest link. Change has been gradual for the most part. That is why it was so surprising to see the team do a 180 by releasing possession types in Heap and Mason in favor of less tested speed demons.