Buccaneers release CB Vernon Hargreaves after benching

Clark: Releasing Hargreaves sets a tone for Buccaneers (1:35)

Wendi Nix, Dan Graziano, Ryan Clark and Jack Del Rio discuss the Buccaneers' releasing Vernon Hargreaves after benching him Sunday vs. the Cardinals for a lack of effort. (1:35)

TAMPA, Fla. -- Two days after he was benched for what coach Bruce Arians deemed lack of hustle, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers released starting cornerback Vernon Hargreaves on Tuesday morning.

"After thoughtful consideration over the past few weeks, Bruce and I came to the conclusion that we needed to make this change," Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht said in a statement. "Decisions such as this are always difficult, but I felt it was in the best interest of our team to part ways with Vernon at this time and allow him to explore other opportunities. We are disappointed that it did not work out here for Vernon and we wish him continued success moving forward."

Hargreaves, the 11th overall pick in the 2016 draft, was the most experienced cornerback on the Bucs' roster.

He was the Bucs' top cornerback heading into this offseason, which is why the organization picked up his fifth-year option for 2020, valued at $9 million. That fifth-year option was guaranteed for injury only, however.

"He didn't look like he was hustling to go in for a tackle," Arians said when asked about Hargreaves, who surrendered a 55-yard catch to Andy Isabella at the beginning of the third quarter against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday. "He was chasing somebody across the field, and he wasn't running fast enough."

Hargreaves wasn't defiant when approached by ESPN after the game and said he believed things could be resolved.

"If that's what Coach saw, that's what he saw," said Hargreaves, who got back into the game after nickelback M.J. Stewart's injury. "There's no arguing it. I need to hustle, point-blank, end of discussion. And I'll get better. I'm sure I'll talk with him this week and we'll get things straightened out, and we'll see where to go from here."

Now the Bucs' most experienced corner is Ryan Smith, who was removed after two plays on defense Sunday because he surrendered a 69-yard touchdown and has played only five defensive snaps this season. The Bucs drafted him in 2016 as well.

Second-year players Carlton Davis and Stewart are the next-most experienced, but Davis has been dealing with a hip injury and Stewart a knee injury. The other two cornerbacks are rookies Jamel Dean and Sean Murphy-Bunting.

Although he posted an interception in Week 1 and made a winning tackle of Christian McCaffrey in Week 2, Hargreaves, who was expected to be a leader, has appeared to lack focus at times this year. The Bucs' cornerbacks group features four players with two years of experience or less and three rookie defensive backs.

Hargreaves' departure means that Smith is the only one of Licht's 2016 draft picks on the current roster. Noah Spence, Roberto Aguayo, Caleb Benenoch, Devante Bond and Danny Vitale were all cut.