The lights at the Superdome have barely been intentionally turned off, signaling the end of another NFL season, and it hasn't been long since the confetti was swept up following the Ravens' Super Bowl victory celebration.
Yet there is still plenty to look forward to and speculate as the NFL heads into the offseason with the free-agency period, which starts on March 12, now less than a month away.
Teams will begin to restructure, not only from a personnel standpoint, but perhaps more importantly from a financial standpoint, as they try to keep themselves under or near the league's salary cap.
These financial decisions are set to have a significant impact on players' futures, and several athletes who played collegiately in the state of Utah will be counted among those whose NFL future is altered.
Here's a look at five college players from the Beehive State who could be impacted by the NFL offseason shufflings.
Email: email@example.com; Twitter: @brandonljudd
Opinions vary widely on where former Utah quarterback Alex Smith will land, after the eight-year NFL veteran suffered a concussion midseason this year and was replaced as the 49ers' starter by Colin Kaepernick.
Smith signed a three-year, $24 million deal last year with San Francisco, and has a second-year base salary of $7.5 million that's guaranteed only if Smith stays on the 49ers' roster through April 1.
With San Francisco making it to the Super Bowl this year, and Kaepernick the team's starter their past 10 games, reports have surfaced that Smith will likely be released or traded by the 49ers.
Three teams with immediate needs at quarterback are Arizona, Kansas City and the New York Jets. Other teams that have popped up in blogs and analysis about Smith's future destination are Cleveland, Jacksonville and Buffalo. Another team with potential interest in the former Ute was Philadelphia, though that interest is likely gone after the Eagles agreed to restructure their contract with Michael Vick earlier this week.
Before the Super Bowl, reports began to surface that new Chiefs head coach Andy Reid was interested in bringing Smith to Kansas City. Smith fits the bill of what Reid is looking for in a quarterback, ESPN's Trent Dilfer told NFL.com.
"I think Andy wants to change a little bit offensively," Dilfer said. "Alex is a guy with a huge capacity (to learn). You can give him a lot and he can handle it. Andy has always been able to get the most out of guys that don't have extreme talent."
In Arizona, Smith would be able to be coached by Bruce Arians, who helped develop Ben Roethlisberger and Andrew Luck. He would also be able to team up with top-flight wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. Plus, the Cardinals will be looking to find a solution to their NFL-worst 21 interceptions in 2012. Smith has thrown 30 touchdowns to just 10 interceptions the past two seasons.
Former Browns head coach Sam Rutigliano told The Review (Alliance, Ohio) that Cleveland should bring in a third quarterback — in addition to Brandon Weeden and Colt McCoy.
"They should bring in (San Francisco veteran) Alex Smith to provide competition for the position," Rutigliano said.
One thing that has been highlighted amidst all the speculation is the class Smith has shown despite losing his starting job and likely facing starting over with another team.
When pressed to answer during the Super Bowl Media Day the advantages of being released versus being traded, Smith was a consummate professional: "I want to play football but there will be time to think about that stuff when this is done."
Former Utah star Paul Kruger had a standout season at his outside linebacker position with the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens, including a pair of sacks in the NFL championship game. He finished his fourth NFL season with 42 tackles, nine sacks and a forced fumble during the regular season.
But salary cap restrictions may force Baltimore to let the emerging star loose. Kruger, an unrestricted free agent, would prefer to stay with the Ravens.
"I'd love to stay in Baltimore," Kruger told ESPN's NFL Live. "It's a great place to play in every aspect. The organization, the facilities, the teammates. It would be hard to leave, for sure."
A couple teams who could be suitors for Kruger include the Colts, Browns and Seahawks. CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora said Cleveland could be looking for a pass rusher like Kruger.
Former Utah cornerback Sean Smith is an unrestricted free agent and could test the NFL free-agent waters after spending his first four years with the Dolphins.
According to one report, Smith, who has started all 16 regular-season games in three of his four seasons in Miami, is asking for $8 million to $10 million per year. That is a number Miami would have difficulty paying as it tries to figure out what to do with soon-to-be free agents Jake Long and Reggie Bush.
A report that came out in late December said that in order to keep Smith, the Dolphins could place the franchise tag on him. Miami would do so in favor over Long, the team's No. 1 draft pick in 2008 who ended this season on injured reserve.
Sun Sentinel reporter Omar Kelly said signing Smith isn't a major priority for the Dolphins.
"The price for veteran starting cornerbacks in the NFL is roughly $6 million a season, and considering Smith has been the biggest bargain on the team for four seasons look for him to chase the money," Kelly said. "Even though Smith's performance for the Dolphins hasn't been steady there will likely be a market for him because of his measurables (6-foot-3), experience (four year starter) and durability (has never missed a game)."
BYU's all-time receiving yards leader, Austin Collie, is an unrestricted free agent with the Colts, and it is not clear whether Indianapolis plans to re-sign him. Collie, who has shined at times and proven to be a soft-handed pass catcher during his NFL career, has been plagued by health issues in his four years in the league.
Collie has had four concussions since he entered the NFL, and those cut short his 2010 season, which started promisingly. Collie also missed almost all of last season with a ruptured patella tendon in his right knee. With Collie sidelined, Indianapolis turned to wide receiver T.Y. Hilton and Donnie Avery to help fill his void, and both played well.
Will Carroll, the lead writer for Sports Medicine at Bleacher Report, recently tweeted he doesn't believe Collie will return to the Colts, and that maybe he will head to Baltimore or Denver. Either destination would be interesting, as Collie would be reunited with former teammates with either the Ravens (Dennis Pitta) or the Broncos (Peyton Manning). Collie's name has also crept up in discussions of what the Cowboys could be looking for.
Kyle Rodriguez of Colts Authority suggested Indianapolis should keep Collie around.
"He’s a great route runner, possesses underrated quick speed, has excellent hands, and fearlessness running in the middle of the field (could be related to his four concussions)," Rodriguez wrote. "Collie’s numbers as a Colt in three seasons were pretty exceptional — 173 receptions, 1,845 yards, 16 TDs, only 1 fumble — and in one of those seasons he was being targeted by a Curtis Painter and Dan Orlovsky."
In his weekly Colts Mailbag Q&A column, Colts.com writer Craig Kelley responded to a fan who suggested releasing Collie so the team would have more money under the salary cap to secure more secondary players.
"I hope Austin is back and healthy, Kelley said. "He has a solid body of work."
In reality, former BYU tight end Dennis Pitta likely isn't leaving the Super Bowl champion Ravens, even though he is a restricted free agent. Pitta is coming off his best season in the NFL, where he had 61 receptions for 669 yards and seven touchdowns in the regular season, and added 14 catches for 163 yards and three scores in the postseason.
The interesting storyline here will be what happens with the team's quarterback Joe Flacco, who is a close friend of Pitta's.
Flacco, the Super Bowl MVP and an unrestricted free agent, could sign a long-term contract with the Ravens; there is a strong possibility the team could slap the franchise tag on him before the March 4 deadline, which would prohibit other teams from making Flacco any offers. That would mean Baltimore would owe the quarterback an expected $20 million next season, unless they sign him to a long-term deal after applying the franchise tag.
"We have always had confidence in him and on the biggest stages, he performs the best," Pitta said of his quarterback after Super Bowl XLVII.
In the event Baltimore doesn't apply the franchise tag to its quarterback, a team that has reported interest in Flacco is Cleveland.
Flacco told media members the Monday after the Super Bowl he's optimistic he will receive a long-term contract with Baltimore.
"There’s all kinds of crazy things that can happen with these contracts that we’ve all seen before, but this is a great organization," Flacco said. "I love being (in Baltimore), great city, so I don’t really anticipate any problems."