If you ask a Minnesota Vikings fan who their biggest rival is, the most common answer you will get are the Green Bay Packers. Division Rivals Chicago and Detroit are most likely to be mentioned along with Green Bay. Even the Dallas Cowboys may be thought of as a rival to the older generation of Vikings fans as Minnesota battled with them throughout the 70’s to see who the superior team in the NFC was.
One team that will not be mentioned as a rival is the Vikings opponent this Sunday, the Seattle Seahawks. The teams have only played each other twelve times in history with Seattle holding a 7-5 edge. On the field there isn’t much of a rivalry to speak of. Off the field however these two teams have more in common that you may know.
There have been some notable Minnesota Vikings players over the years who have gone on to finish the latter part of their career in Seattle. Hall of Fame Quarterback Warren Moon spent three seasons from 1994-96 as the Vikings starting QB before going to Seattle for two seasons. Moon is currently the radio analyst for the Seattle Seahawks broadcast.
Hall of Fame DT John Randle made his name with the Vikings for eleven seasons, playing with the purple from 1990-2000. He finished up the final three seasons of his NFL career in the Pacific Northwest, playing with the Seahawks from 2001-2003. Even legendary Viking Defensive End Bob Lurtsema ended his career with the Seahawks, playing his final two years with them in 1976 & 1977.
It wasn’t until 2006 that a series of one-upsmanship between the front offices tied these two franchises together.
In March of 2006 with free agency approaching, All-Pro Offensive Guard Steve Hutchinson was designated a Transition Player by then Seattle General Manager Tim Ruskell. This meant the Seahawks had the right to match any contract offer that was made to him.
The Vikings, in desperate need of offensive lineman at the time signed Hutchinson to an offer sheet worth $49 million dollars over seven years of which 16 million dollars was guaranteed. To make sure Seattle didn’t match the offer a poison pill was added stating the Hutchinson had to be the highest paid lineman on the team. If he wasn’t, his entire contract was guaranteed.
The highest paid lineman on the Seahawks at the time was All-Pro Left Tackle Walter Jones. With Hutchinson’s salary being less that Jones was making, his contract would have been guaranteed if Seattle chose to match the offer. Matching the offer to Hutchinson would have created salary cap problems for the Seahawks. Seattle filed a grievance with the NFL, claiming that the poison pill was illegal under the collective bargaining agreement. An arbitrator ruled in favor of the Vikings, and the Seahawks were unable to match the offer, receiving no compensation for losing Hutchinson to Minnesota.
In an act of revenge Seattle then went out and signed Vikings wide receiver Nate Burleson to an offer sheet with the exact same terms the Vikings had signed Hutchinson, $49 million over seven years. The Seahawks added a poison pill of their own in the contract saying that if Burleson didn’t play five or more games in the state of Minnesota during any year of the contract his deal would be guaranteed. Since it would have been impossible for Burleson to play five games a season in Minnesota as a member of the Seahawks, the Vikings were unable to match the terms of the contract.
With Hutchinson as a member of the Vikings, He was a four time All-Pro and helped Minnesota make the playoffs twice including an appearance in the NFC title game in 2009. Burleson also made the playoffs twice as a member of the Seahawks, both times his team losing in the divisional playoffs. While Burleson was a serviceable wide receiver for Seattle, the Seahawks haven’t been able to replace Hutchinson on the offensive line since he left. Needless to say the Vikings came out ahead in this deal.
In 2011 the competition between the two franchises heated up again as three former Minnesota Vikings made their way out west to join the Seahawks organization. Former Offensive Coordinator Darrell Bevell joined Pete Carroll’s coaching staff under the same title while Tarvaris Jackson took over as the starting Quarterback. The biggest transaction of the three was Wide Receiver Sidney Rice signing a five year deal worth $41 million to leave Minnesota & play for Seattle. A year later Minnesota was able to add one of Seattle’s former players to its roster as Northfield, MN. Native John Carlson came home, signing a five year contract worth $25 million to play for the Vikings.
This past March, Minnesota and Seattle were at it again but this time working together to make a trade. The Vikings sent All-Pro Wide Receiver Percy Harvin to Seattle in exchange for three draft picks, one of those being used this past draft on CB Xavier Rhodes. Harvin has yet to play a game this year for Seattle as he recovers from a slight labrum tear in his hip. The last time Harvin was on an NFL field, he hurt his ankle in a game against the Seahawks.
The latest chapter in this competition between the two franchises takes place on Sunday in Seattle and Harvin is expected to make his Seahawks debut. Of course as fate would have it, his first game back is against his former team, the Minnesota Vikings.
Isn’t it funny how things work out sometimes?