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Originally published March 14, 2012 at 7:26 PM | Page modified March 15, 2012 at 1:24 PM

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Steve Hutchinson visits, John Carlson leaves Seahawks

Former Pro Bowl guard Steve Hutchinson, now a free agent, visits team he left six years ago on the same day free agent John Carlson signs with Minnesota.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Seattle hosted Steve Hutchinson for a free-agent visit Wednesday, a surprise given the circumstance of his departure six years ago.

And while the Seahawks' decision to release left guard Robert Gallery later in the day was not directly related to Hutchinson's visit, the timing was oddly coincidental.

Paul McQuistan's decision to sign with Seattle, not Hutchinson's visit, appears to be the impetus for Gallery's release. McQuistan began last season as a Seahawks backup but started games at both right and left guard as well as left tackle. McQuistan was an unrestricted free agent. Terms were not known.

Gallery was the most recent player signed to take the left-guard position that Hutchinson owned for five seasons in Seattle. Gallery was the 12th different Seahawk to start at left guard since Hutchinson's departure, but struggled to stay healthy last season after he was signed from Oakland in free agency. He suffered a knee injury in training camp and then an abdominal injury in September, which required surgery.

Gallery, 31, started 12 games for Seattle last season, and was scheduled to make $5 million in 2012.

His departure doesn't mean Hutchinson is coming back. Hutchinson, 34, is a free agent after he was released this month by Minnesota, where he played six seasons. The seven-time Pro Bowl player has several teams interested and has already met with Tennessee.

Hutchinson's visit to Seattle on Thursday shows that maybe time does heal all wounds. Two coaching changes and a front-office overhaul probably don't hurt either.

After starting his career in Seattle, Hutchinson played the previous six seasons in Minnesota after a contentious free-agent departure from the Seahawks in 2006.

Hutchinson was Seattle's first-round draft pick in 2001, a guard chosen No. 17 overall out of Michigan. He made the Pro Bowl in his third year and by 2005, Hutchinson and left tackle Walter Jones were considered the best guard-tackle combination in the NFL.

After Seattle's Super Bowl loss, Hutchinson became a free agent. The Seahawks designated him their transition player, giving them the right to match any contract offer he received but providing no compensation should he leave. Hutchinson signed an offer sheet with the Minnesota Vikings that not only made him the highest-paid guard in the league, but was formatted in such a way that for Seattle to match, it had to guarantee the entire $49 million amount of the deal.

The Seahawks declined to match the offer.

Carlson goes

to Minnesota

Tight end John Carlson is leaving the Seahawks, having agreed to a five-year, $25 million contract with the Vikings.

Carlson was Seattle's second-round pick in 2008, and in his first two seasons with the Seahawks he twice had more receptions than any tight end in franchise history.

His future was cast into doubt when the Seahawks signed Zach Miller last August to a top-shelf contract. Seattle coach Pete Carroll said at the time the expectation was to play both Miller and Carlson, but Carlson suffered a season-ending shoulder injury during training camp.

The Seahawks wanted to retain Carlson, but there was always the question of how much they would pay to do that and whether Carlson would want to remain with a team that had a commitment in place with Miller.

Notes

• LB David Hawthorne has a free-agent visit scheduled for New Orleans on Friday. Hawthorne led the Seahawks in tackles each of the past three years.

• G Mike Gibson, who was re-signed last December, agreed to sign with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Danny O'Neil: 206-464-2364 or doneil@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @dannyoneil.

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