Updated 11:45 p.m.
When the Denver Broncos failed to complete a successful trade for veteran quarterback Kyle Orton last week, questions arose about what exactly the team would do now that it might be stuck paying him nearly $9 million in 2011.
The organization answered those queries Wednesday and officially named Orton the team’s starting signal caller, according to ESPN‘s Adam Schefter and the NFL Network, relegating second-year QB Tim Tebow to a back-up role.
Though Schefter and the NFL Network stand by their reports, head coach John Fox dismissed the notion that the team has made their minds up one way or another when he spoke with the Associated Press late Wednesday.
“My story’s been the same regardless of what you hear,” Fox said. “And I’m in those meetings every day and know what’s said to everybody. Nothing’s changed. We’ve been singing the same song as seven months ago.”
Reports coming out near the conclusion of the NFL lockout had Denver looking to get rid of Orton after deciding to roll with Tebow in 2011. Though the former was the team’s 2010 starter and completed 58.8 percent of his passes for 3,653 yards, 20 touchdowns and nine interceptions in 13 games, the latter earned the final three starts of the season and scored at least a passing and rushing touchdown in each game.
Tebow finished 2010 with 654 yards through the air, five passing touchdowns, three interceptions, 227 rushing yards and six rushing scores. He completed passes at a 50 percent rate but also rushed for 78 and 94 yards in week 14 and 16, respectively.
Many wondered whether Fox and team executive vice president John Elway believed in Tebow going forward, but the former standout QB answered those questions in a May interview with ESPN‘s Ed Werder.
Responding in kind, Tebow felt uplifted by how much support he received from Elway and the Broncos’ front office.
“I believe in them, and they believe in me,” Tebow said. “To have John Elway say positive things about you is just amazing. He’s played the game at the highest level possible, and I’m excited because he’s going to be a great asset for me.”
Yet while offseason signs pointed to the former Heisman Trophy winner starting under center during week one, something obviously changed when the players were free from the restrictions of the lockout.
Orton stepped on the field at the onset of training camp and was handed the majority of and eventually all first-team snaps. Reports coming out of Denver had him shining during practice while Tebow struggled with his accuracy but still completed some impressive passes to the team’s second-team receivers.
For now, Tebow’s Broncos career remains in limbo. Denver must decide whether or not they will sign Orton to an extension, keeping him at Mile High for the foreseeable future, or allow him to walk as a free agent and roll with Tebow in 2012.
One option that is likely not in the cards for the Broncos is trading Tebow; his contract makes that a near impossibility. Set to earn a fully guaranteed $1.618.75 million base salary in 2011, Tebow is also set to earn a $6.275 million bonus 29 days after the league year begins. The nearly $7.9 million combined figure is too much for any team to take on for an unproven second-year quarterback.
Of course, there are four preseason games to play between now and the start of the 2011 regular season and anything can happen during the year, too.
Photo Credit: Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post