There is no debate left on whether or not the Hawks made a mistake not franchising Hutchinson. They made a terrible mistake. They may have done it as a good faith gesture, but it has backfired terribly and the complexion of this team is terribly altered.
The offensive line has been the core of this football team. Last year, it became obvious they had an advantage going into every game in the battle of their offensive line against their defensive line.
Moreover, the dynamic tandem of Hutchinson and Walter Jones covered up the other Hawks weaknesses. The reason Robbie Toebeck was a pro-bowler was because the Hawks were able to cover for the veteran with the play of Hutchinson. Chris Gray is also closer to 40 then 30 and his game is slipping. However, that was covered up by what the Hawks could do with Hutch in the interior of the line.
This team has been built to win right now. However, they just lost their #1 advantage going into each and every game. Shaun Alexander was the MVP and Matt Hasselbeck seems on the verge of being an MVP, but both are going to have bring their games to a new pinnacle without the mauler Steve Hutchinson on the line.