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Kyle Orton is Available. Teams Should Be Calling. Now.

Teams can officially start discussing trades as of this morning, and the Denver Broncos are putting Kyle Orton, the starter from the last two seasons, on the trading block according to the Denver Post. Orton doesn’t want to serve as a backup in Denver, and there are teams that should be after his services.

Kyle Orton has gone from guy who got too much credit for winning as a rookie, to now a guy perceived as putting up good stats but being a loser. Maybe, the truth is that — I don’t know — teammates matter. He hasn’t had some change to his moral fiber. In fact, Kyle Orton and Jay Cutler pulled off that old Hollywood movie trick, switching bodies like Kirk Cameron and Dudley Moore. Remember when Cutler was the stat guy who put up big numbers but couldn’t win. Cutler’s still not beloved because of his personality, reached the championship game last year with Chicago while putting up worse numbers with Chicago’s receivers and line, while Orton put up better numbers but fewer wins with Denver’s defense.

This is not to forgive Orton entirely for last year. His numbers were decent. He, and the offense, also struggled mightily in the red zone, so that they ended up with lots of wasted yards. Even with that flaw last year, he’s still an average to above average starter in this league, and he will turn 29 this year.

For fun, I went and found the ten most similar passers at age 27 and 28, combined, using league adjusted numbers in the five key passing categories: yards per attempt, td%, int%, completion%, and sack%.

  1. Bill Kenney (1982-1983)
  2. Aaron Brooks (2003-2004)
  3. Ken Anderson (1976-1977)
  4. John Elway (1987-1988)
  5. Kerry Collins (1999-2000)
  6. Jim Harbaugh (1990-1991)
  7. Eli Manning (2008-2009)
  8. Jim Zorn (1980-1981)
  9. Jim Everett (1990-1991)
  10. Ron Jaworski (1978-1979)

Brooks and Zorn only started one more year and were in decline. I also don’t think Orton is John Elway. But that list is full of guys that were pretty good from age 29-33. We don’t know about Eli Manning yet, but the other 7 started at least 4 straight seasons, and averaged 3.2 above average passing seasons, and 1 elite season, over the next five years.

It’s also interesting that Kenney shows up as the #1 comp, because Kansas City tried to push him out by drafting Todd Blackledge, and wasted several starts on Blackledge while Kenney was clearly superior.

Back in January, I compared Kevin Kolb type players who first became starters near the same age to early first round picks, concluding that while I would take a top 5 draft pick at QB on average for their first five years, it was close. In that, I did a side by side comparison based on years as starter over the next 5, number of above average seasons, and elite seasons (at least one standard deviation better than league average). I’ll add in Orton to that comparison, including everyone on the above list except for Eli Manning (and replacing him with Bobby Hebert, who was 11th on the list).

Yrs Starting Above Avg Elite
Top 5 Picks 0.74 0.28 0.10
Kolb Comps 0.69 0.37 0.07
Orton Comps 0.83 0.54 0.20

The Orton comps blow the Kolb and the Top 5 Picks out of the water, almost doubling them in above average seasons and elite seasons. And the rumors are that Orton can be had for a second round pick? I’m on the phone. Taking one of these rookies in the top 40 picks like teams did this year, or getting a starter who is above league average at age 27 & 28, should be a no-brainer for roughly the same price. Let’s just put it this way–Tim Tebow is going to have to be a well above average first round pick over the next 5 years to justify trading Orton.

I suppose this shows how strong the narrative about quarterback wins is, or how strong the Tebow narrative is. If I’m a team in need of a QB, I’m taking advantage of the value it is creating.

[photo via Getty]

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