Kyle Orton swears he never saw the arrivals of Brady Quinn and Tim Tebow as a sign of disrespect from the Denver Broncos, only another challenge to embrace.
"I think that's the case for 26, 27 teams in the NFL. They're always trying to replace the quarterback," Orton said Friday, about 15 hours after signing a one-year extension that shows how strong his hold on the starting job is.
"That's just life in this league, life at this position," Orton added. "They're going to try to bring in somebody better and younger and all that stuff. But ultimately, as long as the decision is made on the field and based on play, you really can't have any gripes about it. Fortunately, that's been the case and I've played well."
Orton has made great strides in both his grasp and execution of coach Josh McDaniels' intricate offense in his second season in Denver. Plus, Orton isn't dealing with two bum ankles as he was last season.
As a result, Orton, who threw two TD passes in his three series during the preseason opener at Cincinnati, now is signed through 2011.
Orton's extension is worth $9 million, bringing his two-year total to nearly $12 million, a league source told NFL Network insider Jason La Canfora. Orton is guaranteed $5.5 million.
The deal not only gives Orton some of the security he has long sought but also provides Tebow, the former University of Florida star, with some time to develop into a pro-set passer and offers Quinn time to learn the complex system after three up-and-down seasons with the Cleveland Browns.
McDaniels said Tebow and Quinn shouldn't view this development as a dialing down of the pressure because he wants them to continue pushing the incumbent for his starting job.
"I hope there's pressure on all our players to try to compete to play as soon as they can," McDaniels said. "I think the fact of the matter is Kyle's the starter, has played like the starter, is playing very well and playing at a different level than Tim or Brady both play at. ... So, maybe it's a challenge for them, Brady and Tim both."
Orton, who is 29-19 as a starter with the Broncos and Chicago Bears, has shown no hint that he's ready to relinquish his starting job, and now he has the contract to prove it.
"I hope my play is what tells the team that I'm the guy," Orton said. "I think I've elevated my play, I've elevated my leadership, I've elevated my understanding of the offense. So, I think we've got a lot of guys in the huddle that have seen that and I hope that's what really gives them that comfort."
All offseason and especially during training camp, McDaniels not only saw how far Tebow and Quinn have to go but how far Orton has come.
"He's certainly a different player, there's no question about it," McDaniels said. "There's things that he does now every day that there's no way he was ready to do last year in our system: his ability to communicate with our players, to change plays, to get out of a bad play. I think the trust that the players have in him ... That's something that comes with time, experience, knowledge, hard work and just repetition.
"And I think that Kyle came back in the spring and was a different player, and we didn't have any practices between January and May. So, he was different right from the get-go. He carried that all the way through the spring and then certainly has come into training camp ready to go and has improved there, too."
Not that Orton was lost after coming to Denver in the Jay Cutler trade -- after all, he had his best statistical season last year, setting career highs in nearly every passing category, including throwing for 3,802 yards -- but his bad ankles messed up his throwing mechanics and the Broncos lost eight of their last 10 to finish at .500.
When he watches Tebow and Quinn struggle to understand or direct Denver's complex offense, Orton feels their frustration, having been there himself not that long ago.
"There's always growing pains when you're coming in," Orton said.
With one year under his belt, a season's worth of plays to look back on and his ankles no longer ailing, Orton was able to vastly improve his play.
"I feel like I've come a really long way in three months and feel like there's still a ton of room for exponential growth," he said.
Orton, who signed a $2.621 million tender as a restricted free agent in the spring, said he was resigned to playing out the 2010 season as a lame-duck quarterback before his agent, David Dunn, and Broncos general manager Brian Xanders came up with the one-year extension.
"I just went into the whole camp saying nothing's going to get done, I'm going to have the best year of my career and have to wait until next year," Orton said. "And I was fine with that. If something came about that we thought was fair, we were going to take it, and it kind of came about pretty quickly."
McDaniels said the one-year extension "wasn't the only thing discussed. But I think everybody kind of felt this is a good alternative, a good option for all of us, something we both wanted to do."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.