Donal Lenihan believes Munster made an "awful decision" in allowing James Cronin to leave the province at the end of the season.
The 30-year-old Corkman announced on Tuesday "with great regret" that he would be departing Thomond Park.
"The optics of it are poor," former Ireland and Munster player Lenihan told the RTÉ Rugby Podcast.
"This is a homegrown fella. He’s only 30 years of age. The best three or four years are ahead of him.
"He’s had a fantastic season. He’s never started more games for Munster.
"Dave Kilcoyne is neck and neck with Cian Healy for that Ireland loosehead jersey at the moment and James Cronin isn’t that far behind him. Kilcoyne missed a huge amount of rugby at the start of the year. James Cronin came in and he was outstanding.
Donal Lenihan slams Munster James Cronin call
"It does come down to money but this is a decision they got wrong.
"Josh Wycherley is a fantastic young player. We saw the job he did in the game against Clermot but he had a rough introduction against (Rabah) Slimani but came back well, but we haven't seen him since. I don't know what's the story with him. He's played very few minutes.
"You have Liam O'Connor who is another good young loosehead. I remember Jeremy Loughman getting Man of the Match against Ospreys in a Heineken Cup game about two years. There is depth there.
"There's no question in my mind that James Cronin is tight number two behind Killer. There is no way you should be leaving a player of that stature go. Make the budgetary cuts somewhere else. If you have to lose player 44 in order to keep him, then that's what you do.
"If you're in a quarter-final or semi-final, and Killer gets injured, when you see James Cronin coming in off the bench, you're not worried and the players around him aren't worried.
"I think it sends the wrong message, especially in light of another South African second row/back row coming into the squad - how much is he (Jason Jenkins) costing?"
Former Ireland hooker Bernard Jackman was in agreement with Lenihan, calling the decision "madness".
"I’d rather have two or three players less between number 45 and 50, and have to go to the AIL to get a player if I am stuck to play a Pro16 match next year, but have the artillery on the bench or in the starting team to be able to win a knockout stage match in Europe with James Cronin," said Jackman.
"They are not going to be able to replace James Cronin with a non-Irish qualified equivalent.
"I reckon it’s just down to a mismanagement of their budget, spending too much in certain areas and it’s going to cost them next year at some stage.
"Cronin has experience in the bank, he’s been there, done that. It’s money I’d be willing to spend to have that second top-end loosehead there."