If the two-time Pro Bowl selection follows through on his statement that he’s going to retire, which remains an unresolved situation, then Clayton would be in line to become quarterback Joe Flacco’s primary downfield target.
That is, unless the Ravens are able to successfully revisit expensive trade scenarios for Pro Bowl wide receivers like the Denver Broncos’ imposing, trouble-prone Brandon Marshall and the Arizona Cardinals’ disgruntled veteran Anquan Boldin.
The Ravens are actively investigating all of those possibilities, including looking into Marshall’s legal problems and background. However, acquiring a proven talent at this stage of the offseason is regarded as an iffy proposition.
Meanwhile, the receivers already on the roster, including Clayton, Demetrius Williams, Marcus Smith and Kelley Washington, are getting ready for potential increased roles if Mason takes himself out of the picture.
"I know we’re hard workers, all of our guys, and we understand that we’ve got to step up," Clayton said in a telephone interview. "Our goal is to do make plays down the field and score some touchdowns for the organization. We’ve got dudes here that are willing to work and do whatever it takes to bring their ‘A’ game.
"More than anything, we have some dudes that are hungry. From that work we put in, we’ll create leadership. Leadership is about putting in the time and effort to perfect your craft, and we’re striving for perfection. It’s definitely going to be a challenge for us."
A former first-round draft pick from the University of Oklahoma, Clayton caught 41 passes for 695 yards and three touchdowns last season while operating in a complementary role to Mason.
For his four-year career, Clayton has registered 200 career receptions for 2,636 yards and 10 touchdowns.
"We all have a lot of confidence in ourselves and our teammates," Clayton said. "Whatever they need me to do, I’m ready for it and I’m sure the rest of the guys are, too."
Clayton is still a bit shocked that Mason is contemplating retirement.
"I didn’t even believe it at first," he said. "I was like, yeah right. I thought somebody was joking. At first, it sounded like the dumbest thing I had ever heard. I didn’t think it was true at all. Now, I’m sure he’s serious.
"Whatever it is that’s bothering him, it brought him to the point where he wants to retire. There’s a whole lot of happiness and peace about being able to spend time with your wife and kids. I don’t know what he has planned, but I’m sure he’ll miss the game if he retires and, in some ways, he won’t."
Clayton said that he’s going to reach out to Mason and attempt to convince him to continue to play.
"I’m going to put my word in and I’m going to lobby him," Clayton said. "I’m going to get in touch with him soon. Time is of the essence. I’m going to recruit him like Oklahoma did for me when I was in high school."
NOTE: As today’s deadline approaches for the Ravens to sign franchise player Terrell Suggs to a long-term contract extension, the three-time outside linebacker proclaimed that there’s a 75-percent chance that a deal gets done and that the two sides can come to a "peaceful medium" during an interview on Sirius NFL Radio.
"I think we’ll get a deal done," Suggs said. "Last year, we couldn’t reach one by the deadline, but hopefully this time we can."
If the deal isn’t completed by 4 p.m. today, then Suggs will play this season under a $10.2 million franchise tag because a new contract can’t be finalized until after the season under NFL rules. The major sticking point in talks is that Suggs wants more upfront guaranteed money, which could block the deal from happening.
Minnesota Vikings defensive end Jared Allen’s six-year, $72.3 million contract, which includes a $15.5 million signing bonus as part of a total of $31 million in guaranteed money, is being used as a guidepost during negotiations.