- Michael C. Wright, ESPN Staff Writer
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Denver Broncos announced the release of quarterback Kyle Orton on Tuesday, and sources familiar with the situation said the Chicago Bears plan to put in a waiver claim to facilitate a potential reunion, adding the team is also interested in former Arizona Cardinals' third-round pick Josh McCown.
The Denver Post reported that Orton and his agent, David Dunn, helped to facilitate the quarterback's release by requesting it after they learned of Jay Cutler's thumb injury. Cutler will have surgery Wednesday, according to sources familiar with the situation, and is expected to miss the rest of the regular season.
The Broncos released the 29-year-old veteran Tuesday, six weeks after benching him following a 1-4 start. He passed for 3,000-plus yards in each of his first two seasons in Denver.
The Bears could be looking to bring back Orton, despite his lack of familiarity with the system of offensive coordinator Mike Martz and the approximate $2.5 million remaining on his nearly $8.9 million salary for 2011.
The NFL bases waiver claim priority on inverse order of the current standings, and if there's a tie between two or more teams, ties are broken by strength of schedule and by the records of the teams' opponents.
The Houston Chronicle reported that the Texans have no interest in Orton. On Wednesday, the team placed quarterback Matt Schaub on injured reserve and signed Kellen Clemens, a league source told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.
Another potential destination for Orton is the Broncos' AFC West rival Chiefs. Matt Cassel hurt his throwing hand in Kansas City's 17-10 loss to Denver on Nov. 13 and had season-ending surgery the next day. His replacement, Tyler Palko, threw three interceptions in his first start, a 34-3 loss at New England on Monday night.
Orton, drafted by the Bears in the fourth round in 2005, started 33 games for Chicago before being traded along with two first-round picks and a third-rounder to the Broncos for Cutler in 2009.
The Texans worked out veteran quarterbacks Jeff Garcia, Trent Edwards, Brodie Croyle and Clemens on Monday, but it's unclear if the Bears have any interest in them. Like McCown, veterans J.T. O'Sullivan and Marc Bulger have experience in Martz's offense, but Bulger said over the summer that he is done playing football.
Ideally, the Bears would like to get a deal done by Wednesday so the quarterback could go through a week of practices before Sunday's game against the Oakland Raiders.
An eight-year veteran, McCown is familiar with the system employed by Martz from playing for him in 2006 as a member of the Detroit Lions.
McCown expressed a desire to join the Bears in May 2010 when the club was searching for a veteran backup quarterback. Bears coach Lovie Smith said Monday that the team would prefer to acquire a veteran to back up Hanie.
McCown spent the first four years of his career with the Cardinals, before spending one season with the Lions. McCown signed with the Raiders in 2007, and played for the Carolina Panthers from 2008-09.
McCown obviously understood why the Bears want to find a veteran reserve as opposed to a less experienced player, saying that the volume of Martz's system can be overwhelming for many quarterbacks.
"Mike was very hard and very demanding on younger quarterbacks," McCown said of his days in Detroit. "When we started to install things, you started to see the system take shape; how everything was coming to fruition. Man, it was fun. It was a good experience. It's funny. Even now I'll pull things from what I learned from Martz a few years ago. As you go along, you're kind of starved to get pushed mentally. You really enjoy it the older you get."
McCown spent the 2010 season playing for the Hartford Colonials of the United Football League. He signed with the 49ers on Aug. 17, but was released the following month.
In 47 games with 31 starts in the NFL, McCown passed for 6,584 yards with 35 touchdowns and 40 interceptions, posting a career passer rating of 71.3.
Michael C. Wright covers the Bears for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000. ESPNChicago.com's Jeff Dickerson contributed to this report. Information from The Associated Press also was used.
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