In a somewhat surprising move, the Denver Broncos released veteran quarterback Kyle Orton on Tuesday.
The move was first reported by ESPN.
According to the Denver Post, Orton and his agent David Dunn initiated talks of his release with the Broncos after they learned that Cutler suffered a broken right thumb against the San Diego Chargers Sunday and that he would likely miss the remainder of the regular season.
"Orton let it be known that Chicago would be one place he'd like to play for," the Post story said.
Fox Sports NFL insider Jay Glazer said he hears that the Bears and/ or Kansas City Chiefs will put in a waiver claim for him. If both teams did, the Chiefs would get the veteran because of an inferior record. In fact, the Bears are 30th out of 32 teams, on the waiver priority list because of its 7-3 record.
The Bears appear committed to backup Caleb Hanie, and coach Lovie Smith made clear Monday that they wanted to add a veteran to back him up. Rookie Nate Enderle, a fifth-round pick, is considered a developmental player. The Bears were considering Josh McCown and J.T. O'Sullivan, yet neither was signed on Tuesday. Orton is now believed to be in the mix, after his release Tuesday afternoon.
There have been indications that Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz hasn't fully embraced Hanie. Last year, Martz ultimately tabbed Todd Collins to play ahead of him, even though it was a disastrous performance against the Carolina Panthers. Hanie is also an unrestricted free agent, after this season.
The Kansas City Chiefs, who placed starting quarterback Matt Cassel on the injured reserve last week, started Tyler Palko last night. But Palko threw three interceptions in a 34-3 loss to the New England Patriots.
It will be known if Orton is claimed or cleared waivers Wednesday by 3 p.m., CST. Since the Bears have such a low waiver position, they may consider letting him clear then signing him to a new contract. Any club that claims Orton would have to pay the prorated remainder of his 2011 base salary, which comes to $2.6 million. That's quite an investment, if a club wants Orton as a backup. Hanie, by contrast, will make $420,000 over the final six games -- or roughly what Orton would make to sit on the bench and back him up.
Orton was expendable because he was supplanted as the Broncos starting quarterback by Tim Tebow. Former Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn is currently the backup.
"I would like to thank Kyle for all his work with the Denver Broncos," Broncos executive vice president John Elway said. "In the three years that he's been here, he's been an absolute pro. We thought it was best for the Broncos at this time as well as for Kyle to catch on with a different team.
"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."
In a Q&A with fans, the senior writer for the Bears website made clear that the club is "not going to sign Brett Favre, Kurt Warner or Marc Bulger."
"All three of those players are retired, which means they're probably not staying in NFL shape," Larry Mayer wrote. "While it would be intriguing to have one of them join the Bears in a backup capacity, it's not going to happen."