"We told them then that I didn't want to deal with any contract stuff during the season. It never got done, then, either."
The Seahawks were a team in transition after the 2004 season. Team president Bob Whitsitt was fired and replaced by current head man Tim Ruskell. Seattle had 16 free agents to sign or cast aside, including QB Matt Hasselbeck, LT Walter Jones, RB Shaun Alexander and CB Ken Lucas. All but Lucas of those four were retained. After the 2005 season, the uncertainty surrounding the extension of the Collective Bargaining Agreement affected the ability of teams to strike deals with their marquee players.
Still, there's no way to look at the result and conclude that Seattle didn't made a rather large mistake. The Seahawks misjudged the market, and Hutchinson's intentions, when they designated Hutchinson as their transition player. The Seahawks thought no team would pay $7 million a year for a guard, even a three-time Pro Bowl choice such as Hutchinson. And Seattle never suspected Hutchinson would agree to the poison-pill clauses that Minnesota used to essentially prevent the Seahawks from matching.
The Vikings' seven-year, $49 million offer sheet included language that would have forced only Seattle to guarantee the contract. At that point it became clear Hutchinson was ready to move on to another team. Nearly six months later, Hutchinson's comments make it appear as though he hasn't moved on mentally and emotionally.
"They kept telling me how important I was and how good I was and I thought I took care on my side," Hutchinson said of the Seahawks. "I worked hard, played hurt and tried to be a positive influence in the locker room."
Apparently unable to fathom how the Seahawks could let him get away, Hutchinson theorized that Mike Reinfeldt, the team's contract negotiator, was afraid to deal with Condon.
"They played against each other in the old days and I really think 'Rino' didn't want to get beat by Tom," Hutchinson said. "Tom is always getting great deals for his guys and I don't think Rino wanted to be the next guy getting beat."
In truth, the Seahawks tried to negotiate on the back end. The team asked Walter Jones to restructure his contract so that Hutchinson would be the highest-paid offensive lineman on the team, thereby meeting what they thought were the conditions of the offer sheet. Jones agreed. But the sheet also mandated that Hutchinson would be the highest-paid at the time he signed it. The Seahawks took the case to arbitration and lost, leaving them with no further options.
Seattle will move forward with Floyd Womack as the most likely Hutchinson replacement. The Seahawks and Vikings will meet at Seattle's Qwest Field on Sunday, October 22.