Orton: From starting QB to waiver wire

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.”

John Elway, the Broncos’ executive vice president of football operations, called Orton an “absolute pro.”

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 $2.6 million in salary, which is what remains of his roughly $7.4 million salary for 2011. If nobody claims him, he’ll be free to sign with any team.

Two possibilities are the Bears and Texans. Both are in the thick of the playoff race at 7-3 but have injury problems at quarterback.

The Denver Post reported that Orton and his agent requested the release after hearing about Cutler’s injury with the Bears.

Cutler will have surgery today to repair the fractured thumb on his right throwing hand.


Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said Ben Roethlisberger will start at quarterback against the Chiefs on Sunday despite a fractured right thumb. … Bills starting cornerback Terrence McGee (knee) and receiver Donald Jones (ankle) were placed on season-ending injured reserve. … Former Seahawks defensive tackle Cortez Kennedy, coach Bill Parcells, former Cardinals and Chargers coach Don Coryell, who played at the University of Washington, running back Jerome Bettis and commissioner Paul Tagliabue are among 26 modern-era semifinalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. … The Jaguars placed linebacker Clint Session on injured reserve following his second concussion this season and signed former Seahawks linebacker Kevin Bentley. … The Jets waived backup tight end Shawn Nelson because of what the team called a “non-football illness.” … Running back Tashard Choice was released by the Redskins, two days after making his debut for them against his former team, the Cowboys. … The Harbaugh brothers will face each other for the first time as NFL head coaches when John’s Ravens host Jim’s 49ers on Thanksgiving night. Jim Harbaugh said he’s looking forward to the game, but said, “no doubt we got the short end of the straw” because the 49ers have to fly to Baltimore on a short week. … The Bears signed long snapper Jake Laptad to a three-year contract to replace injured veteran Patrick Mannelly. … Vikings cornerback Chris Cook plans to claim self-defense as he fights charges stemming from an altercation with his girlfriend.