This is the 44th in a series of scouting reports on key players who are expected to become free agents March 13, unless they are re-signed or franchised before then.
News: After posting a 1-4 record as a starter to begin the 2011 season before being benched by the Broncos, Orton was placed on waivers and eventually claimed by the Chiefs on Nov. 23. He started the final three games of the season for Kansas City, leading the team to upset victories over the playoff-bound Packers (their lone regular-season loss) and Broncos. Now a free agent, he is expected to look for a team where he can compete for a starting job. Orton turns 30 in November.
Notes: With 69 career starts (35-34 record) under his belt, Orton would be a solid pickup for a squad looking for a veteran starter or a stopgap until a young quarterback is ready. Only once in his career (2009) has he played in all 16 games in a season, so being on a team with another able signalcaller would be wise. Orton struggled in 2011 with turnovers, throwing nine interceptions and losing a pair of fumbles. He also has had success during his career, with consecutive seasons of more than 3,600 passing yards and 20 or more touchdown passes in 2009-10 with Denver.
Positives: At 6-4, 225 pounds, and with plenty of starting experience, Orton could be the perfect fit for a team looking for an established pocket passer. Comfortable both in the starting lineup or coming off the bench, he has done it all during his seven NFL seasons and has a solid arm with good accuracy. He immediately gained the respect of his Chiefs teammates upon signing with the team last season and played well in leading the team to a pair of wins. In a league where solid QB play is in high demand, teams could do a lot worse than picking up a player with an 80-57 TD-to-interception ratio and a 58.3 completion percentage throughout his career.
Negatives: Teams looking for a mobile quarterback or one with cannon arm strength should cross Orton off their list immediately. Though he has solid footwork that helps him avoid taking too many sacks, he isn't going to outrun many defenders or make dazzling downfield runs. His career long run is 15 yards, and that happened back in 2005 as a rookie with the Bears. He also hasn't shown the ability to beat opponents over the top with long throws. Additionally, Orton was replaced as a starter in both Chicago and Denver. He was benched in favor of Rex Grossman in Chicago, traded to the Broncos for Jay Cutler, and yielded his starting spot in 2011 to Tim Tebow.
Risk factor: Moderate. Teams who believe they are a QB away from the Super Bowl should look elsewhere, as Orton never has played in a postseason game. However, the 2011 season proved to several teams that having dependable QB depth is very important. Orton is either an average starter or an elite backup, but with solid passers in high demand, some team will give him a decent contract. The Chiefs must decide if they are comfortable with Matt Cassel — who is coming off a wrist injury — and 2011 rookie Ricky Stanzi at quarterback or if they want to bring back Orton to provide more depth. The team's acknowledged interest in signing Peyton Manning indicates they're not entirely comfortable with Cassel under center.
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