ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Kyle Orton has gone from Jay Cutler’s replacement to Tim Tebow’s backup to the unemployment line.
The Broncos released the 29-year-old veteran quarterback Tuesday, six weeks after benching him following a 1-4 start.
“I spoke with Kyle earlier today and thanked him for everything he did for the Broncos. He was a true professional throughout this season. I’ve got a great deal of respect for him as both a player and as a person,” coach John Fox said in a statement.
“This was the right decision for our football team. We feel good about our quarterback group, and this gives Kyle an opportunity to help another team and showcase his talents.”
Orton shouldn’t stay unemployed for long.
Although he’s a vested veteran with seven NFL seasons under his belt, Orton is subject to the waiver rules because he was released after the trade deadline. If another team claims him, it will be responsible for about $3 million in salary, which is what remains of his roughly $9 million contract for 2011. If nobody claims him, he’ll be free to sign with anybody.
Two intriguing possibilities are the Chicago Bears and Houston Texans. Both are in the thick of the playoff race at 7-3 but have problems under center, and another potential destination is AFC West rival Kansas City.
Cutler broke the thumb on his right throwing hand last weekend and might miss the rest of the regular season. His backup is Caleb Hanie. The Bears visit the Broncos on Dec. 11.
Matt Schaub of the Texans is out for weeks with a right foot injury and he’s been replaced by previously underachieving Matt Leinart.
Matt Cassel hurt his throwing hand in the Chiefs’ 17-10 loss to Denver on Nov. 13 and had season-ending surgery the next day. His replacement, Tyler Palko, threw three interceptions in his first start, a 34-3 loss at New England on Monday night.
John Elway, the Broncos’ executive vice president of football operations, called Orton an “absolute pro,” and said he decided against keeping him on the roster through the remainder of the season.
“We thought it was best for the Broncos at this time as well as for Kyle to catch on with a different team,” Elway said. “Kyle is going to have more options in the NFL. He’ll get an opportunity to play somewhere else, and we wish him the best of luck.”