Kyle Orton is about to become a free man at an ideal time.

Just as two teams currently in playoff positions are on the verge of beginning life without their starting quarterbacks, Orton has been waived by the Denver Broncos.

The Texans and Bears, both 7-3, recently saw their starters suffer injuries that could keep them out for the remainder of the year. And just yesterday, the Chiefs placed opening-day starter Matt Cassel on injured reserve. All three teams are now left with inexperienced starting pivots as they attempt to make playoff runs.

But before Orton can land in Houston or Chicago or Kansas City, he’ll have to be passed on by a slew of teams with a higher waiver priority.

Both the quarterback-needy Colts and Dolphins (who tried to trade for Orton in the offseason) will have chances to grab Orton ahead of KC. And I wouldn’t rule out the Seahawks, who are also in front of the Chiefs. If all of those teams pass and Scott Pioli and Todd Haley check as well, it’ll likely come down to the Texans and Bears (Houston has a higher priority due to the strength-of-schedule tiebreaker).

Orton, who was slated to become a free agent at the end of the year, would come cheap. He has $1.3 million remaining on his contract, which isn’t a lot of money for six regular-season games (and maybe some playoff action).

It’s not as though the Bears and Chiefs are known as big spenders, but considering the weak open market and the number of contending teams in need, it’s hard to see him passing through waivers and becoming a free agent. Besides, Orton spent the first four years of his career with Lovie Smith in Chicago.

As far as Denver goes, this isn’t necessarily a vote of confidence for Tim Tebow. Instead, it’s an admission that Orton was out of chances. Injuries suffered recently by Cassel, Jay Cutler and Matt Schaub probably spurred John Elway and his peers to cut Orton loose now in an attempt to dump some salary.

Just yesterday on a local Denver radio station, Elway confessed that he didn’t feel any closer to knowing who his quarterback of the future was. Clearly, he was sure it wasn’t Orton.