Broncos Waive Kyle Orton: Where He Might End Up and What It Means for Tim Tebow
Since Orton was released after the trade deadline, he is subject to NFL waiver rules, which stipulate that teams have first dibs on the released player based on their record the previous season, with the worst team getting the first option to pick him up.
So, where might Orton end up?
Here are three possible scenarios which seem to make the most sense.
Scenario 1: Orton to Chicago Bears
With Chicago Bear quarterback Jay Cutler sidelined for at least the remainder of the regular season after breaking his thumb during a touchdown-saving tackle against the San Diego Chargers, a scenario in which Orton returns to his original team actually seems to make the most sense.
Orton played serviceably for the Bears, where he went 21-12 as the starter under head coach Lovie Smith until he was traded nearly straight-up to the Broncos in 2009—there was a fifth-round draft pick thrown in for good measure—in the midst of then-head coach Josh McDaniels' dismantling of the Denver Broncos' offense.
Orton still knows a lot of guys in the Bears' locker room, and he seems like a better option to lead the Bears for the last six games of the regular season than the inexperienced Caleb Hanie.
Hanie showed potential while relieving an injured Cutler (MCL tear) against the Green Bay Packers in the 2011 NFL Playoffs—a game remembered more for the ridicule Cutler received from fellow NFL players and analysts after leaving the game and seeming to sulk on the sidelines—but he has no regular season experience.
Hanie will make his first NFL start this week against the Oakland Raiders, a team that Orton knows well.
The Bears (7-3) are tied with the Detroit Lions for second-place in the ultra-competitive NFC North, and had the look of a team that could contend with the Green Bay Packers until Cutler went down.
Scenario 2: Orton to Kansas City Chiefs
In another potential for irony, Denver's AFC West rivals the Kansas City Chiefs could claim Kyle Orton to replace their starting quarterback Matt Cassel, who broke his hand in Week 10 against—you guessed it—the Denver Broncos.
Adding to the irony is that Cassel played a role in getting Orton to Denver in the first place.
Former Bronco coach Josh McDaniels, who was Cassel's quarterback coach and offensive coordinator in New England when Cassel took over for an injured Tom Brady and led the Patriots to an 11-5 record in 2008, tried to bring Cassel in as Denver's quarterback when he got the job in 2009.
Though Cassel signed with the Chiefs instead, McDaniels effectively ostracized Jay Cutler and eventually sent the disgruntled quarterback to Chicago for the man the Broncos released today.
Cassel was placed on injured reserve prior to the Chiefs' Monday Night Football game against the Patriots, and his replacement, Tyler Palco, tossed three interceptions in KC's 34-3 loss.
Kansas City (4-6) is tied for last in the AFC West.
Scenario 3: Orton to Houston Texans
Kyle Orton to the Houston Texans seems like a good idea from the outside, but John Elway's former backup in Denver, Texans head coach Gary Kubiak, is going with Schaub's backup, former Heisman winner Matt Leinart.
Houston Chronicle reporter John McClain tweeted:
Texans aren't interested in Orton. if Schaub learns Wednesday he needs surgery, they'll sign one of vets they brought in for tryouts Monday.
The Texans (7-3) are in first place in the AFC South and seemed to be regaining their health, with the return of All-Pro wideout Andre Johnson and last year's leading rusher Arian Foster...before Schaub injured his right foot and was lost for the season.
Despite the unlikelihood of Orton going to Houston, it is fun to think about the Denver quarterback connection found in each of these three scenarios.
Teams have until 4:00 p.m. Wednesday to claim Orton before he becomes a free agent.
What Does This Mean for Tim Tebow?
In case you needed any more convincing, Broncos Executive Vice President John Elway signaled that the Tim Tebow era is officially underway in Denver, at least for the rest of the 2011 season.
While Tebow's future as the Broncos' starting quarterback beyond this season is a subject for debate, cutting Orton from Denver's 53-man roster eliminates any chance of coach John Fox handing the reigns back to the man who started the season as the starting quarterback, even if Tebow goes down.
So, what does releasing Orton really mean to Tim Tebow?
Not much, likely.
John Elway is not convinced that he has found his team's answer at quarterback in Tebow, and until the second-year quarterback proves he can complete routine NFL passes on a regular basis and move the chains throughout the course of the game (and not just in crunch-time), the look for his successor will continue.
There is still plenty of speculation that Denver will select a quarterback in the 2012 draft to either challenge, platoon with, or replace Tebow as the Broncos' full-time starter, but Elway & Co. seem to have at least solidified Tebow's position with the team for now by releasing Orton from the team.
But for now at least, this is Tim Tebow's team and the starting quarterback position should be his to either win or lose next season, though Broncos Nation will likely have less say in that decision than they seemingly had in 2011.