Kyle Orton won’t be an understudy in the Tim Tebow era any longer.
Orton, who fell to No. 2 on the depth chart to Tebow during Denver’s bye week earlier this season, was waived this afternoon.
The veteran quarterback began the season as the Broncos starter but a 1-4 start relegated Orton to the bench. Tebow, on the other hand, has gone 4-1 since taking over the job.
Orton’s release couldn’t have come at a more perfect time for a number of teams in the playoff hunt in need of a veteran starting quarterback.
Locally, that’s the Bears. They could use Orton’s services for the final six games as Jay Cutler recovers from thumb surgery. It’s expected Cutler could miss up to eight weeks. Caleb Hanie will start Sunday in Oakland.
Houston is another destination. The Texans lead the AFC South but are in desperate need of a quarterback after Matt Schaub went down with a foot injury. Schaub is expected to miss the rest of the season. Matt Leinart will start in his place on Sunday.
Kansas City could also use Orton for the stretch run after they placed starter Matt Cassell (hand) on injured reserved. The Chiefs still have a remote chance to come out of the depleted AFC West.
If a team claims Orton off waivers, he’s owed the remainder of his $8.8 million salary. If unclaimed, he becomes a free agent. Orton is scheduled to become a free agent after the season.
The waiver wire reflects the inverse order of the NFL standings so besides the 23 other teams ahead of the Bears, of the teams mentioned, Kansas City has the best shot of playoff hopefuls.
Kansas City is 10th in waivers and while the Texans and Bears are tied at 7-3, Houston has the waiver priority over Chicago.
Some NFL teams not in contention that could use a quarterback — Arizona, Jacksonville, Miami and Seattle — could conceivably sign Orton for the rest of the season or to a long-term deal. That would allow Orton to familiarize himself with the system and give teams a better idea for 2012.
Arizona and Minnesota and several other teams sought trades for Orton during training camp. Miami almost landed Orton if you remember before the season.
So where is Orton likely to land?
It all depends if he clears waivers. Then it comes down to a number of scenarios.
Houston will know later this week if Matt Schuab can make a comeback at all this season. If not, that’s Orton’s likely destination.
Chicago would be next, but chatter around town is that he would backup Caleb Hanie and Orton wouldn’t go for that. I think if Orton goes to the Bears, its under the impression he’s the starter until Cutler comes back and I don’t see that happening.
Though, if Cutler is out well into the playoffs, the move for Orton would be beneficial.
But how strange would it be for Orton to go back to the Bears and backup Jay Cutler — assuming Cutler comes back healthy and the Bears are in the playoffs — after being traded for Cutler in 2009?
My advice for Bear fans: if you have an Orton jersey stashed somewhere, don’t bring out it just yet. I’d first locate it then go back to it if the Bears do sign him.
I’d rather have Orton over Caleb Hanie, but I’m also fully confident Hanie will get the Bears through the next six games so Cutler can take over for the playoffs.
After Houston and Chicago, Buffalo might be intrigued by the idea but they just signed Ryan Fitzpatrick to a long-term deal.
I would think Seattle would flourish from a quarterback that’s not Tavaris Jackson. Seattle would be a much better team with a quarterback.
As for the Bears case… that’s coming up in the next blog.