Cardinals release two starters: CB Benwikere, OT Smith

Arizona Cardinals offensive tackle Andre Smith signed a two-year contract with the Cardinals in the offseason.Photo Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

One day after Sunday’s 45-10 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers, the Cardinals made two significant personnel changes.

The team announced Monday that it released right tackle Andre Smith and cornerback Bene Benwikere. Both players started eight games this season and both were starters in Sunday’s loss, which was the Cardinals’ third straight defeat.

Neither player is injured, so this is an unusual move, especially for a team that lacks depth.

Steve Wilks, who is in his first year as the Cardinals’ head coach, said he was not trying to send a message to the rest of the team with the moves.

He claimed inconsistent play by Smith and Benwikere were the reasons they were let go.

“I’m not in the business of sending messages. I’m very direct,” Wilks said Monday. “If you’re not doing it our way, not giving us the best opportunity to win football games, No. 1, you won’t be on the field, and if it gets to that point, we’ll move on.”

Given the team’s 2-9 record, Wilks’ moves could be seen as an effort to begin reconstruction of the team for next season.

“I think right now, when you’re sitting here at 2-9, you got to try to do everything you can to win a football game and also look towards the future,” Wilks said.

Korey Cunningham is expected to move to right tackle with D.J. Humphries expected to be back back at left tackle this week.

The Cardinals gave Smith a two-year contract in the offseason with $3.5 million in guarantees. He played in 13 games, including eight starts, for the Cincinnati Bengals last year.

Benwikere, who had one interception and half a sack this season, played for Dallas last season, participating in 12 games but not starting any of them. The Cardinals signed him to a one-year contract in March.

–Kicker Phil Dawson was placed on injured reserve with a hip injury. He has made 5 of 8 field-goal attempts this season, including 1 of 2 on Sunday.

–Linebacker Josh Bynes was placed on injured reserve with a thumb injury. He has started all 11 games this season and has 75 total tackles, including two sacks.

–Kicker Zane Gonzalez was promoted from the practice squad to the active roster to replace Phil Dawson. Gonzalez was released by the Cleveland Browns on Sept. 17 after making just 2 of 5 field-goal attempts.

–Running back David Johnson was the Cardinbals’ leading rusher Sunday with 63 yards. He also caught two passes for 10 yards.

–Defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche was credited with 2.5 sacks on Sunday, giving him 4.5 for the season.