CHARLOTTE – Defensive tackles Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short were linked from the moment they arrived in Charlotte after being selected with Carolina's first two picks in the 2013 NFL Draft.
But they both knew the 2017 season would likely be their last together.
"It was tough knowing that it was probably going to come to an end," Short said Wednesday. "We were connected. First round, second round. Numbers 98 and 99. It came with the territory. But we never got tired of it.
"We embraced it and we tried to be the best defensive tackles to come through here, to be that one-two punch."
The duo did exactly what they were brought here to do, helping to establish one of league's best defensive fronts.
Short, a Pro Bowler in 2015, was rewarded with a lucrative extension following the 2016 season.
Lotulelei, who played under the fifth-year option on his rookie contract in 2017, had a decision to make this offseason. The Panthers were interested in keeping him, but he ultimately chose to sign a five-year deal with the Bills.
"He kept me posted through the whole process. He would hit me up and let me know what he was thinking," Short said. "We knew what needed to be done. He's done a great job for this organization and for this defensive line.
"Through it all, I gained a brother, not just a teammate. We'll forever have a connection."
It didn't take long for Carolina to secure Lotulelei's replacement.
Two-time Pro Bowler Dontari Poe signed a three-year contract with the Panthers just a few days after Lotulelei landed in Buffalo.
"Coach Sam (Mills III) called me and asked if I saw who we just got," Short recalled. "And I was like, 'Oh, shoot!'
"He's a heck of a player. I was excited. We lost a great player, but we also gained a great player. This will spice things up."
It'll be strange not having Lotulelei around after five seasons side-by-side, but Poe as Short's new running mate sounds like a recipe for more success up front.
"He can dominate on the inside," Short said of Poe. "I respect his game. He's athletic, he can move around and he seems like he has fun doing it. He's always got a smile on his face.
"When he signed, Coach (Eric) Washington gave me Poe's number and I hit him up. He was pumped. We know what we've got. Now we've all got to buy into the process."
View photos of how defensive tackle Kawann Short spends his time away from football.