We arrived at a general consensus Tuesday in the hours after the Denver Broncos waived quarterback Kyle Orton: It makes sense for the Chicago Bears to add him to their roster. The best process for doing so, however, is less obvious.
The Bears have the third-lowest priority this week in the NFL's waiver system, an order based on record, with ties broken in reverse order of strength of schedule. The two teams behind them, the San Francisco 49ers and Green Bay Packers, seem unlikely to place a claim.
So if Orton isn't claimed by a team with higher priority than the Bears, he would be a strong candidate to clear waivers entirely and become a free agent. The Denver Post has reported Orton wants to return to Chicago, making it likely he would accept a one-year contract at the minimum NFL salary for a player of his experience level to finish out the year with the Bears.
That scenario suggests the Bears probably don't need to claim Orton, as NFL analyst Ross Tucker noted via Twitter. It won't impact the end result, and waiting out the waiver process would save the Bears about $2.4 million in cash and salary-cap space by sitting tight. That's the difference between the prorated portion of his $7.3 million base salary, which the Broncos would pay if he clears waivers, and what the Bears would owe him in pro-rated minimum salary.
One argument for placing a claim regardless is that it could improve the Bears' standing in the complicated formula for awarding compensatory draft picks for departed free agents, presuming Orton signs elsewhere in the offseason. I'm not sure if the Bears will consider that possibility worth the extra $2.4 million. We'll know for sure by the 4 p.m. ET end of business Wednesday.
In the video below, ESPNChicago.com's Jeff Dickerson suggests the Bears will in fact place a waiver claim.