One of the major obstacles that stood between Seattle's offensive line and achieving respectability last year came at right tackle where the Seahawks had spent a first-round pick on Germain Ifedi in 2016 but hadn't seen much in the way of return on investment.
Ifedi wrestled with both injuries and inconsistent play while making a rough transition from Texas A&M to the NFL. Then came last year when the mastering of his craft began to take shape for Ifedi and, not so coincidentally, Seattle's offensive line improved across the board allowing the team to lead the NFL in rushing while providing ample protection for quarterback Russell Wilson.
Now entering year four, Ifedi finds himself in a strong position to continue elevating his play because his body isn't under repair as it was last year when he had to contend with a hip issue and a sports hernia.
"Coming to the end of the offseason program, being healthy for the first time in a couple years for the offseason program, it’s been exciting being able to do everything and work with my teammates out there," he told reporters following the first day of minicamp at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center in Renton, Wash.
Being healthy is great news for Ifedi, who is entering a pivotal season for his career. Seattle declined to pick up his fifth-year option on his contract making this a make-or-break season for Ifedi with the Seahawks.
"Reading into their not picking it up, I think football’s a business, man," Ifedi said. "They made a business decision, and I can’t feel one way or another about it. It is what it is. Going into the last year of my contract, that’s what it means."
It also means that this could be his final season in Seattle, even if he has a great year. Doing so might price him out of Seattle's plans with so many other big contracts already on the ledger and another huge deal likely to be worked out at some point with middle linebacker Bobby Wagner.
"It's football, nothing is promised," Ifedi said. "This could be my last day out here. Take it one day at a time...work as hard as you can and everything will work out."
At this time last year many wondered if the offensive line would doom the team's playoff hopes as it did the previous season. By season's end, Seattle had one of the most productive lines in the league. This year they aim to be known as the best, as boasted by left tackle Duane Brown during voluntary offseason training activities.
"I don't think it's blowing smoke," Ifedi said. "I think we all believe that. We're working everyday for that to be the reality."
[ALSO READ: Could the Seattle Seahawks feature the NFL's best offensive line?]
A second year under offensive line coach Mike Solari could help the unit reach a higher level of excellence.
"He continues to pound details and we’ve all bought into that and, we all hold ourselves to that standard to start with," Ifedi said of Solari. "So, before he ever asked us anything where it’s self correcting and, they were getting coached up on it, but it’s been exciting and I think we’re still breaking new ground every day on where this O-line can go."
Seattle coach Pete Carroll said he has no problem with Brown or Ifedi believing the line could become the league's best. But...
"I don’t know if we’re setting our sights on that yet," Carroll said. "Maybe they are in the room, which is great, but we’ve got to come back and run the football like we did and find more ways to be effective in short yard situations. But it’ll come back to really the pass pro. We want to give Russ a really clean pocket back there so he can do his work. That that’ll come along I think as we get together and the guys learn how to make their calls and fit together."
Ifedi's play will have a lot to say about the pass protection's success. He certainly improved his stock last year but clearly needs to show Seattle that he can be productive two consecutive seasons before the Seahawks reach into their pockets to pay the man beyond 2019.
Now healthy, Ifedi has a strong chance of proving his value.
"Being able to start from January after the season ended, a couple of weeks," he said, "and being able to work my way through the spring and the summer has been a real big advantage for me this year."