Free agency and the Buffalo Bills.
Two things which have typically been on opposite ends of the spectrum, but that changed during the 2012 offseason.
The rumors of Mario Williams being spotted at the Buffalo airport by this guy's brother's barber swirled across the twitter-verse and Bills' message boards alike. Fans who had seen this song and dance before rolled their eyes and waited for the inevitable letdown.
Yet it never came.
Williams, the top defensive player on the market and former No. 1 pick, cashed in a $100 million check at First Niagara Bank, shocking the Buffalo faithful in the process.
However, adding Williams was not the final piece to the playoff puzzle for the Bills, as the team floundered and missed the playoffs for the 13th straight season. The wasted season led to an overhaul of the coaching staff and a reshuffling of the front office, which means that the team will be looking in a different direction this season.
Whether or not the Bills are major players in the latest edition of free agent frenzy remains to be seen, but the team will need to fill a few holes regardless.
Let's take a look at a few guys who would be big gets for the Bills during this offseason. Not all of the selections will be realistic based on the amount of cash that Buffalo has available, but the following players could be fits if they chose to the Bills a look.
Uh, Josh, this is a kicker.
Yes, I know, but Buffalo can not rely on Rian Lindell to be their place kicker any longer. The team's mistrust in Lindell was on full display this season, as he was rarely called upon for a field goal attempt of 40 yards or more.
Age has nothing to do with the decision, in fact Dawson is two years older than Lindell.
The difference is that Dawson, an unrestricted free agent this offseason, can still kick the ball a country mile and do so in an environment that has the same weather temperament as Buffalo. Dawson was 29-for-31 on field goal attempts this season including an impressive mark from 50 yards or more, where he made all seven of his attempts.
The Bills need a kicker that they can rely on in close games and Dawson would provide that for a few seasons.
Sam Shields made a statement for all to see in the early going of the Packers' NFC Divisional Round loss to the Niners on Saturday night.
His interception of Colin Kaepernick, which he took all the way back for a score, is just one example of how the young corner can turn the game in an instant. He made a nice read on that play and was rewarded for his gamble with his first career playoff touchdown.
It has been Shields and rookie of the year candidate Casey Hayward who have been the most effective secondary players for the Packers this season, not usual stalwarts Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams.
Shields still has a little ways to go to becoming a top corner in the league, if he even becomes one, but the kid has the talent and skills if he wants to get to that level.
Enter the guy into the Bills lineup opposite of Stephon Gilmore and you suddenly have a more competent cornerback situation. Every Bills fan knows that Aaron Williams and Justin Rogers can not be counted on to be that kind of player.
The last player that Buffalo had at cornerback was Nate Clements, so the team would be open to adding a playmaker such as Shields.
The only deterrent of this scenario is that the Packers will likely make a good offer to Shields to keep him in green and gold.
Connor Barwin is another player that will likely be resigned by the team he is currently on, but as an unrestricted free agent he will still have the luxury of testing the open market.
The former Cincinnati Bearcat, Barwin fits more as a 3-4 outside-linebacker, but he could flip between linebacker and defensive end in new Bills' defensive coordinator Mike Pettine's flex scheme.
Buffalo has not had a pass-rusher that they could move around the defensive front to pick at the weakness of the offensive protection. Putting Barwin on the defensive front will not give opposing teams the chance to double or triple team the Williams brothers.
The Bills need to continue to add as many athletes to their front seven as possible and Barwin certainly qualifies in that category.
Coming out of the University of Alabama four years ago, Andre Smith was supposed to be the next big thing at tackle.
Smith showed up at his first NFL camp out of shape and provided miserable results at left tackle. He was moved around to guard and finally right tackle, where he settled at last season.
The game has finally slowed down for Smith and according to Pro Football Focus, the mammoth tackle graded out as one of the best run blockers in the league.
Buffalo has been adding giants on the line to block for their speedy future star C.J. Spiller since the last season Dick Jauron was still in town. Smith would be an instant upgrade over current job-holder Chris Hairston and assuming that Andy Levitre is kept on at left guard, the Bills could have the top offensive line in the NFL.
The Bengals would be wise to keep Smith after a breakout season, but his price tag is sure to be higher than it was a season ago.
Jairus Byrd and Andy Levitre are two of hottest commodities on the free agent market in 2013, while coincidentally being members of the Bills over the past four seasons.
Byrd put together another Pro Bowl-caliber season, but was predictably snubbed by the oblivious fan vote. Levitre also got some consideration for a Pro Bowl spot, but was looked over because he played on a bad Buffalo team.
The former Oregon State guard was a huge reason for C.J. Spiller's excellent 2012 campaign, where he led the league in yards per carry. Levitre has already stated that he will look for the best offer, but he hopes that offer will come from the Buffalo Bills.
Byrd has been hush on the contract talk front, not willing to discuss the parameters of ongoing negotiations during the season.
It would be a huge mistake for the Bills to let either of these rising stars go and it should be their top priority before they look at free agents from other squads.