The NFC champion Seattle Seahawks designated All-Pro guard Steve Hutchinson as the team's transition player yesterday after the sides were unable to reach a long-term contract.
Hutchinson will receive a one-year contract for the average salary of the top 10 offensive linemen from the 2005 season, $6.39 million. Hutchinson can receive offers from other teams once the free agency period begins March 3, but Seattle has the right of first refusal on any offers.
Seattle has until March 17 to reach a long-term contract with Hutchinson, or will have to wait until July to begin negotiations again. Had Seattle named Hutchinson its franchise player, the lineman would have made $6.983 million next season.
Teaming with tackle Walter Jones, the duo has helped form one of the best left-side blocking tandems in the NFL.
Hutchinson and Jones led a rushing attack that was second in the league in total offense.
Other players designated with the transition tag include: Minnesota cornerback Brian Williams, $4.774 million; and Carolina running back DeShaun Foster, $5.13 million.
The designation of Hutchinson as the transition player also puts increased pressure on reaching a multiyear deal with defensive tackle Rocky Bernard.
Two other franchise players were protected earlier this week -- Buffalo cornerback Nate Clements and New York Jets defensive end John Abraham.