It seems almost fitting that, on a day when the Minnesota Vikings and Seattle Seahawks made the biggest news of the 2013 NFL off-season (to this point, anyway), a guy that was the subject of controversy between the two teams at about this time seven years ago had announced he's hanging it up.
Steve Hutchinson, who played for the Seahawks for five seasons before coming to Minnesota and, eventually, finishing his career with the Tennessee Titans, has announced that he's going to be retiring tomorrow.
Hutchinson, who was selected by the Seahawks with the 17th overall pick in the 2001 NFL Draft out of the University of Michigan, played for Seattle from 2001 to 2005. Then, the Seahawks put the "transition" tag on him, a form of free agency that would have allowed the Seahawks to match any deal from another team, but would not entitle them to any compensation if they did not. So, the Vikings slipped a clause into the deal that infamously became known as the "poison pill."
The offer sheet that Minnesota signed Hutchinson to was a seven-year, $49 million deal. The clause that the Vikings inserted into the deal said that if there came a time where Hutchinson wasn't the highest-paid offensive lineman on the roster, his entire contract would become fully guaranteed. Normally, that wouldn't have been a problem for Seattle. . .except for the fact that future Hall of Fame tackle Walter Jones had just signed an extension that was worth more than the offer sheet that the Vikings signed Hutchinson to. Hence, had the Seahawks matched, Hutchinson would not have been the highest paid lineman on the roster. . .and every penny of that $49 million would have been guaranteed.
Well, the Seahawks didn't like that very much, so they countered by signing then-Viking Nate Burleson, a restricted free agent, to a similar seven-year, $49 million offer sheet. They then inserted a clause into the contract that said if Burleson played a certain number of games a year in the state of Minnesota, the entire contract would become guaranteed. Naturally, the Vikings chose not to match. . .but, unlike Seattle, they got something out of it, as Seattle had to send the Vikings their third-round pick in the 2006 NFL Draft.
I don't know about you, but I'd still trade Nate Burleson for Steve Hutchinson and a third-round pick every time. Because that's what the. . .shall we say. . .urinating match ended up amounting to. Hopefully what happened today between these two teams will end up being as lopsided in Minnesota's favor.
In both Seattle and in Minnesota, Hutchinson was one of the best guards of this generation, and will likely garner Hall of Fame consideration sometime down the road. (Just ask Shaun Alexander how good he was. . .you know, if you can locate Shaun Alexander anywhere.) His 2012 season ended with a knee injury, and he's decided that now was the time to call it a career.
Congratulations to Steve Hutchinson on a great NFL career, and best of luck to him going forward.