ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Kyle Orton went from Jay Cutler's replacement to Tim Tebow's backup to being unemployed.
Denver released the 29-year-old quarterback Tuesday, six weeks after benching him following a 1-4 start.
"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 of Orton in a statement.
Orton started the first five games this season before Fox yanked him in favor of Tebow. Since then the Broncos are 4-1 under the former Heisman Trophy winner at Florida.
Orton is subject to waiver rules because he was released after the trade deadline. If a team claims him, it will be responsible for about $3 million in salary. If nobody claims him, he can sign with anybody.
The Bears, who traded Orton and two draft picks for Cutler in 2009, are a strong possibility. Cutler broke the thumb on his right throwing hand Sunday and is scheduled for surgery today.
The Denver Post reported that Orton and his agent, David Dunn, asked Denver to let the quarterback go soon after learning of Cutler's injury. But waivers go by reverse order of record, so a lot of teams could claim Orton before the 7-3 Bears.
Bucs release DT Okam
The Bucs released defensive tackle Frank Okam and added Eagles practice squad defensive end Daniel Te'o-Nesheim to the active roster. Te'o-Nesheim was a third-round pick in 2010.
HALL NOMINEES: Bill Parcells, Jerome Bettis and Curtis Martin are among 26 modern-era semifinalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. In January the list will be cut to 15 plus senior nominees Jack Butler and Dick Stanfel. Inductees will be chosen Feb. 5.
BILLS: Cornerback Terrence McGee (left knee) and receiver Donald Jones (left ankle) are out for the season.
Times staff writer Stephen F. Holder contributed to this report.