Hutchinson visits Seahawks; Gallery released

SEATTLE — Apparently, even after a poison pill and a messy departure, you can go home again. Or at least look into it.

Steve Hutchinson, the Pro Bowl left guard who left Seattle for Minnesota on not-so-good terms in 2006, was in Seattle for a free agent visit Wednesday, a sign that both he and the Seahawks are considering a reunion. Hutchinson isn’t the only free agent visiting the Seahawks this week, as quarterback Matt Flynn and defensive end Jason Jones all have visits scheduled. Former Miami Dolphins quarterback Chad Henne was scheduled to visit the Seahawks Wednesday night, but signed a two-year deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

On Wednesday, the Seahawks released veteran left guard Robert Gallery, who signed to a three-year deal last season. Gallery was due $5 million in each of the next two seasons. The Seahawks also re-signed backup offensive lineman Paul McQuistan on Wednesday.

It probably doesn’t hurt that Hutchinson, a seven-time Pro Bowler, has almost no remaining ties to the organization he left six years ago. The entire front office and coaching staff have been turned over, meaning there shouldn’t be any remaining hostility, and it should also help Seattle’s chances that offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell spent five seasons in Minnesota with Hutchinson.

Hutchinson, who is now 34, was part of a dominant offensive line in Seattle playing alongside Walter Jones, and helped lead the Seahawks to Super Bowl XL. Following that 2005 season, Hutchinson was a free agent and it was widely expected that Seattle would place the franchise tag on him. Instead, the Seahawks applied the transition tag on him, which meant that, while they could match any other team’s offer, they would receive no compensation if Hutchinson left — teams that lose a player after applying the franchise tag get two first-round pick as compensation.

Minnesota then offered Hutchinson a seven-year $49 million contract that included a “poison pill” provision which stated that, if Hutchinson wasn’t his team’s highest-paid lineman, the entire contract was immediately guaranteed. For the Seahawks, who had a year earlier re-signed Jones to a lucrative long-term deal, that meant matching Minnesota’s offer sheet would require all of Hutchinson’s deal was guaranteed.

So rather than keep intact the best left side of a line in the NFL, the Seahawks had to let Hutchinson walk with nothing to show for it. Seattle eventually got a bit of revenge, singing receiver Nate Burleson to contract that included poison pill provisions that would keep Minnesota from matching, but the team’s line never fully recovered. Ironically Hutchinson is the latest in a long series of veteran left guards the Seahawks have explored since 2006 when they were trying to replace Hutchinson.

All of that is apparently ancient history, however, and there is now a real chance that Hutchinson will come back to the team that selected him in the first round of the 2001 draft. In Minnesota, Hutchinson continued to be one of the best guard’s in the league, earning Pro Bowl honors in each of his first four seasons there. Injuries and age have limited his effectiveness some, but Hutchinson was still able to start 14 games last season.

Flynn to visit

The Seahawks are by all accounts out of the running for Peyton Manning, but they are still looking at quarterback options. Flynn, a free agent who was Aaron Rodgers’ backup in Green Bay, is scheduled to visit this week, the team confirmed.

Flynn, who has excelled in his only two career starts, was expected to be a hot commodity on the free agent market, but Manning’s availability, as well as Washington’s ability to trade up to the No. 2 pick, where it will draft Robert Griffin III, has the market for Flynn seemingly cooling. Seattle should have more familiarity with Flynn than most teams because general manager John Schneider was a part of the Green Bay front office when the Packers drafted Flynn.

The Seahawks currently have two quarterbacks under contract — Tarvaris Jackson, last year’s starter, and Josh Portis, who was signed last year as an undrafted free agent.

Carlson headed to Minnesota

John Carlson, who established Seahawks records for a tight end with 55 catches and 627 receiving yards as a rookie, is heading back to his home state of Minnesota after signing a five-year contract with the Vikings Wednesday. Carlson, a second-round pick in 2008, was a force in the passing game his first two seasons, but saw his numbers decline in 2010, then missed the entire 2011 season with a torn labrum. His role would have decreased last year even if healthy, the result of the Seahawks signing Pro Bowl tight end Zach Miller last summer.

Head coach Pete Carroll expressed a desire to utilize both tight ends in the offense, both at the time of the Miller signing then again at the end of the season, but the reality was that the Seahawks weren’t going to pay Carlson starting tight end money with Miller also on the books. Had no team stepped up with a big offer, Seattle would have likely tried to keep Carlson, but Minnesota’s offer of $25 million over five years was simply too much for a second tight end.

The NFL Network’s Steve Wyche reported the Seahawks will host tight end Visanthe Shiancoe for a free agent visit “within the next few days.” Shiancoe knows Bevell from their time together in Minnesota.

Notes

Linebacker David Hawthorne, the team’s leading tackler each of the last three seasons and now an unrestricted free agent, is scheduled to visit the Saints later this week, reports CBS Sports. … Guard Mike Gibson, who spent the last three years in Seattle, starting eight games in 2010, has signed with the Eagles, according to Pro Football Weekly. Gibson began his career in Philadelphia as sixth-round draft pick in 2008, then was signed by Seattle off the practice squad in 2009.

Herald Writer John Boyle: jboyle@heraldnet.com

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