The Dolphins addressed their shaky cornerback situation on Monday by claiming former Carolina Panthers starter Bene Benwikere off waivers.
“The Dolphins are getting a starting caliber cornerback for free,” his agent, Bardia Ghahremani, said. “He’s a bright young man who’s physical.”
To make room on the roster, the Dolphins placed linebacker Koa Misi on injured reserve with a neck injury. The Dolphins are permitted to take only one player off injured reserve during the season (after missing the minimum required eight weeks), and it's more likely they bring back defensive tackle Earl Mitchell this season (eligible to return for game 9) than Misi (eligible to return for game 13).
Benwikere, 6-0, has appeared in 27 games and started 14 for the Panthers over the past two-plus seasons.
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He started four games this season but was cut days after Atlanta’s Julio Jones caught passes accounting for 228 yards when covered by Benwikere. But Benwikere also had an interception this season, one of two in his career.
The Dolphins needed help at the position because rookie Xavien Howard could miss six weeks after knee surgery, and because Byron Maxwell has been erratic.
Opposing quarterbacks have a 102 passer rating against the Dolphins this season.
Veteran cornerback Chris Culliver is eligible to return off the physically unable to perform list in time for the Oct. 23 game against Buffalo.
Unless Maxwell and Lippett raise their play, it’s possible the Dolphins --- by the end of October --- could eventually start two cornerbacks who weren’t even on the team when camp began – Benwikere and Culliver.
Benwikere, a fifth-round pick out of San Jose State in 2014, can play in the slot and on the boundary.
The Charlotte Observer reported that Benwikere’s release “seems like a situation where a frustrated player and frustrated coaching staff didn’t mesh.”
Beyond Jones’ success against him, Panthers coach Ron Rivera suggested there was more to the move, saying it was done “in part (because of) some of the things that have happened and some other things.”
Benwikere began training camp on the physically unable to perform list after breaking his leg above the ankle last season.
“People are forgetting that the kid literally broke his leg 10 months ago (and) is literally just getting back into it,” Ghahremani told The Observer recently.
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