When people discuss the offseason quarterback market -- you know, when we have an actual market and all -- Kyle Orton is generally lumped in with the usual suspects like Matt Hasselbeck, Donovan McNabb, Kevin Kolb, Marc Bulger and Vince Young. But to me, he is a very different case. Unlike the others.
You see, there is no doubt that guys like Hasselbeck and Bulger will be unrestricted free agents. Young will be dealt or released, eventually, as will McNabb, for reasons financial and otherwise. The Eagles' desire to deal Kolb is established league-wide. Orton is a different case.
The Broncos aren't looking to deal him. They aren't loaded with intent to move him. They can see many scenarios and projections with him as their starter to open the 2011 season -- in fact, that's precisely what the people I've talked to there expect to be the case.
It's apples and oranges compared to the rest of this group. Could he be dealt? Certainly. Wayne Gretzky was traded in his prime for goodness sakes. It's pro sports, anything is possible. But are the Broncos under anything close to the pressure or desire to unload him as these other teams are in cases like Kolb and McNabb? Not close.
Orton is valued by the Broncos. They know he can be a winning quarterback. He's smart and can absorb a system, and has some natural chemistry with receivers there like Brandon Lloyd. For a franchise that is dealing with significant fan unrest, and coming off a collapse of a season, and with a new regime in place, the Broncos need to win some games. Now.
Without question, Orton gives them the best chance to do that. Should the season become lost or the offense sputter -- Tim Tebow isn't going anywhere. But undoubtedly Tebow's progress -- particularly with a new staff in place -- is significantly hindered by the lockout and he desperately needs daily practice, film study and meeting-room time with the coaches that he isn't getting and might not get the entire spring.
There's no doubt Orton's internal value is high and his $8.5 million contract is sufficiently low. You can have him at the right price -- Denver is obviously rebuilding, needs picks and Orton is in the final year of his extension -- but it won't be cheap.
If the right call comes in and the offer is strong, it will be considered, according to sources. But the idea that a third- or fourth-round pick might get it done is woefully misguided. A high second-round pick that converts to a first-rounder based on production, now that could be a different story.
But the Broncos don't anticipate such a call and all teams realize how handcuffed potential quarterback transactions like this will be by the labor situation. Most GMs figure that if/when we get new rules for 2011, and beyond, it won't be until the last minute -- sometime in July, August or September.
Teams will be scrambling just to execute normal business and fill out a roster. Merely digesting the new CBA would take time. Players would have to be tendered; free agents would have to be signed. Trying to reschedule a preseason game or two and other matters would be pressing.
Pulling off a potentially complicated QB trade, in that window, all the while knowing the passer's practice time in the new system will be brief, won't be easy. Furthermore, with Orton in his final year of his deal, securing an extension might be in order and doing so under new -- and perhaps somewhat temporary -- rules could be tricky, too.
As it stands now, it's much more likely that Kolb lands in Seattle or Arizona, and McNabb fills a void in Minnesota. Miami might end up being the team to watch if a market really forms for Bulger, but again, given the complexities of this unique offseason, even then riding out 2011 with Chad Henne and drafting a quarterback next year might make more sense.
Regardless, if someone does want Orton, they had best be armed with something more substantial than mid-round picks.
Follow Jason La Canfora on Twitter @jasonlacanfora.