That Hutchinson guy winding down in Minnesota
Hutchinson plans to keep playing; do the Vikings want him?
By Tom Pelissero, 1500ESPN, Twin Cities
The departure of Steve Hutchinson in 2006 became one of the defining moments in Tim Ruskell's five years as Seahawks president. So much so, in fact, that at the news conference in which Ruskell announced his resignation in December 2009, he remarked he once told his wife that upon his death, they should opt for the cremation instead of traditional burial so no one could write on his tombstone, "Here lies the man who lost Hutch."
Ruskell was joking. Kind of.
Amid the gallows humor, it's easy to forget the Seahawks had a chance to keep Hutchinson in 2006. This was true even after the Seahawks left the backdoor ajar by applying the transition and the Vikings signed him to that famously poison-pilled offer sheet. The Seahawks would have had to promise to pay all seven years of that $49 million deal, though, something they decided was simply unfeasible.
We're now seeing why.
He has finished the past two seasons on injured reserve. In 2010, it was a thumb injury, in 2011 a concussion, and while Vikings coach Leslie Frazier indicated to ESPN1500 reporter Tom Pelissero that Hutchinson is doing fine, there remains a question as whether the Vikings will keep him for the final year of that seven-year deal at the base salary of nearly $7 million.
I've always wondered if the Seahawks would have been better off just biting the bullet and guaranteeing all that money, and it's possible now -- with Hutchinson having played six of the seven years on the deal -- to argue it would have been worth it.
It would not have been realistic. This is professional football where the average career lasts less than four years, and you're talking about promising seven years of pay to a player who already had played five years? It would have been reckless, and while Hutchinson remained employed by the Vikings the previous two seasons, it's hard to imagine the Seahawks wouldn't have used the uncapped year of 2010 to shorten the term of Hutchinson's employment as they did with offensive tackle Sean Locklear and linebacker Leroy Hill or cut him outright as they did with safety Deon Grant.
The Seahawks didn't go off a cliff after the free-agent departure of Hutchinson. They won the NFC West in three of the first five years after his departure, and totaled three playoff victories.
But as it appears Hutchinson is nearing the end of the road in Minnesota, it's interesting to think about all that has happened in the time since he left Seattle.