Kyle Orton claimed by Chiefs off waivers, Bears settle for Josh McCown
The Chiefs' claiming of Kyle Orton might be more significant for where Orton didn't go than where he did. (Ric Tapia/Icon SMI)
The Kansas City Chiefs claimed Kyle Orton off waivers from the Denver Broncos on Wednesday, preventing the Bears from reuniting with their former quarterback in their hour of need.
Chicago, which is without Jay Cutler indefinitely to a broken thumb, appeared to be a likely landing spot for Orton, whom the Broncos suddenly sent packing Tuesday amid reports that Orton wanted to head back to the Bears, where he began his career. Instead, the 7-3 Bears will continue their playoff push with Caleb Hanie at QB and Josh McCown backing him up -- Chicago announced it had signed McCown just moments after the Chiefs' waiver claim became public knowledge.
Kansas City also had a need at quarterback, with Matt Cassel placed on injured reserve this week because of a broken hand. Tyler Palko started in his place Monday in New England, but did next to nothing in a 34-3 loss.
Andrew Brandt of the National Football Post tweeted that, in addition to Kansas City and Chicago, Dallas also put in a claim on Orton. Because of their waiver priority, had the Chiefs not landed Orton, he would have headed to Dallas instead -- the Bears were 30th in the waiver order, several spots below the Cowboys.
The big question now for the Chiefs is if Orton will report. He's due more than $2.5 million over the remainder of the year, but there was some speculation that he would only play for Chicago. Holding out would cost him that money, and with the trade deadline long gone, Kansas City would not have many alternatives other than holding on to Orton.
If Orton does head to K.C., he'll step in as soon as possible as the Chiefs' starting QB -- Kansas City hosts Pittsburgh on Sunday night, then plays (ironically enough) at Chicago in Week 13.
The Chiefs are running out of time to turn their season around and reenter the division race, but they do close the year with back-to-back games against first-place Oakland and second-place Denver.
The bigger impact from all of this may come in the NFC, where Chicago currently holds the final playoff spot. The Bears have a tenuous lead over the 6-4 Falcons and 6-4 Giants, who are tied with Dallas for first in the NFC East.
Hanie has never started an NFL game and has not thrown a pass yet this season. Over his four-year career, all of which have been spent with Chicago, he's just 8-for-14 passing during the regular season. He did throw 20 passes in the Bears' postseason loss to Green Bay last year, after Cutler was sidelined by injury and Todd Collins was benched.
Does Orton have anything left in the tank? The 29-year-old started 13 games in Denver last season, then spent the first five games of 2011 as the Broncos' No. 1 QB. However, he was replaced by Tim Tebow after Denver opened the season 1-4 -- Orton posted a 75.7 QB rating with eight touchdowns and seven interceptions during that span. How much he impacts the AFC West race depends on several factors, starting with his desire to play in Kansas City. But Orton may have played a major role in the NFC race, simply by not making it to Chicago.