Veteran wide receiver Derrick Mason is widely respected within the Patriots organization for his toughness, consistency and durability. When he was a free agent after the 2004 season, Mason was brought to town for a visit as Bill Belichick hoped to sign him (Mason landed with Baltimore instead).
Had things unfolded differently, perhaps Mason's opinion on the best players in football would be different. He likes Colts quarterback Peyton Manning and Ravens safety Ed Reed over Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
Mason explained his thoughts in an interview with 105.7 The Fan in Baltimore (transcribed by SportsRadioInterviews.com)
"When you look at the rankings and you look at the importance of a player is this: not the type of season that he had, one seasons or two seasons that he had, it’s what player do I kick off a team and it changes that team dramatically? I only know one player and it’s Peyton Manning," Mason told 105.7 The Fan in Baltimore.
"You take Tom Brady off New England they showed that they can go 11-5. Now you take Peyton Manning off the Colts I don’t know where that teams goes offensively. Another guy I look at and say it changes the scope of what they do is a guy like Ed Reed. You take Ed Reed off of our defense not to say I don’t think the defense would be good, we’re good, because we have good players, but if you take him off the back end it changes us somewhat and it showed last year. Once you insert him [Ed Reed] we’re back to … quarterbacks are scared to throw the ball deep down the field. You don’t want to just rank them because they had a good season or a 1,000 yard season. You rank them as if I took this player off this team or away from this side of the ball what does it do for that team? Do they get better? Do they get worse? The only person I know, two people really, is Peyton Manning and Ed Reed."