Ravens release starting fullback Ricard

Regarded as one of the NFL's most punishing lead-blocking fullbacks only a few years ago and credited with helping tailback Jamal Lewis crack the 2,000-yard barrier in 2003, five-year veteran Alan Ricard was released by the Baltimore Ravens on Tuesday evening.

The release was not unexpected, with Ricard having been limited by injuries to only two appearances in 2005, and the Baltimore media had predicted the move was imminent.

Ricard, 29, suffered injuries to both calves in 2005 and was placed on the injured reserve list in October. He was sidelined for much of this spring as well as he continued to try to rehabilitate his injuries, and he did not participate in any of the Ravens' team drills during their minicamps or organized team activities.

The former Louisiana-Monroe standout, now an unrestricted free agent, could have value to some franchises -- but only if he has fully recovered from his injuries.

Signed to a contract extension in 2004, Ricard still had three seasons remaining on that deal, at scheduled base salaries of $850,000 for 2006 and $1 million each for the 2007 and 2008 campaigns. But the release of Ricard was hardly a financial decision. Ravens officials and coaches were wary of his recent injuries, want to get younger at fullback and have redefined the role of the position in the offense.

The candidates to replace Ricard include three-year veteran Ovie Mughelli and second-year pro Justin Green. The coaches are believed to be particularly impressed with Green, a fifth-round choice in the 2005 draft who has terrific size (251 pounds) and toughness. Baltimore might also use tight end Daniel Wilcox more as an H-back this year, and that would help fill the fullback role.

In 55 appearances with the Ravens, including 32 starts, Ricard carried just 43 times for 172 yards and two touchdowns and posted 32 receptions for 179 yards. But he was a dominant blocker at times in the running game and was solid in pass protection.

Ricard originally entered the league with the Dallas Cowboys as an undrafted free agent in 1999 but was released. He signed with Baltimore in 2000 and spent a year on the practice squad before earning a spot on the active roster in 2001.

The Ravens also signed two sixth-round draft choices, punter Sam Koch and cornerback Derrick Martin, to three-year contracts on Monday. Koch signed a $1.13 million deal that included a signing bonus of $54,490. Martin received a $49,950 signing bonus on a contract worth just shy of $1.13 million.

Baltimore also reached contract agreements with fourth-round tailback P.J. Daniels and fifth-round tight end Quinn Sypniewski. Financial details of those two contracts were not yet available.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.