Although NFL free agency won’t start for several more weeks, business is expected to pick up when it involves shuffling among network broadcast teams. This may be the greatest surprise of all.
After 22 years at Fox, Troy Aikman will be the lead analyst for ESPN’s “Monday Night Football”. According to the New York Post, Aikman will sign an agreement for five years that rivals Tony Romo’s $17.5 million per-year at CBS.
Fox and ESPN had no comment about Aikman’s future.
Aikman is with Joe Buck on Fox’s top team since 2002. However, there have been whispers over the past few months that the Hall of Fame quarterback was looking to leave.
Many believed that Aikman would be joining Al Michaels at Amazon to take over “Thursday Night Football.” After failing to impress Romo or Peyton Manning in previous seasons, ESPN has the star quarterback.
Since 2015, ESPN chairman Jimmy Pitaro tried for years to get Manning to join “Monday Night Football.” Pitaro’s perseverance paid off last season when Manningcast with Peyton Manning and Eli Manning premiered to great reviews. Through 2024, the 10-game “Monday Night Football With Peyton and Eli” package will be available.
The main broadcast has been done by Steve Levy and Brian Griese for the past two seasons. Michaels might consider ESPN again now that Aikman is available.
Michaels was the next in line to become the play-by–play announcer for “Monday Night,” which moved from ABC to ESPN in 2006. After expressing interest in staying with John Madden and producer Fred Gaudelli, he was traded to NBC. Drew Esocoff was also involved in the trade.
Since Mike Tirico’s departure to NBC in 2016, the MNF booth has seen many changes. Tirico was the play by-play voice for 10 seasons, 2006-15. He teamed up with Jon Gruden for seven of the last seven. Sean McDonough was the voice of Tirico in 2016 and 2017, and he worked alongside Gruden.
Gruden resigned to become Raiders coach. McDonough wanted to return to college football so ESPN hired the three-man ESPN booth of Joe Tessitore and Jason Witten in 2018. Witten was unsuccessful as an analyst, so he decided to return to the field in 2019.
Levy, Griese, and Riddick may also be kept in place as a second “Monday Night” crew. ESPN/ABC will broadcast 23 games during the regular season when the new broadcast deal with the league begins.
ABC will also broadcast the 2027 Super Bowl. This marks its return to the NFL’s championship match for the first time since 2006.
Fox could move Greg Olsen to the top team, or it could try to take on Sean Payton, former New Orleans Saints coach. Olsen would be promoted following the same route as Aikman, one year on No. 2 team, before moving up. Aikman’s successor will be a key choice for Fox, which has the 2023 Super Bowl and 2025 Super Bowls. Buck’s contract will expire next year.
Although Tom Brady is an interesting prospect for any network and a seven-time Super Bowl winner, he has not expressed an interest in joining the booth.
If he decides to retire, Sean McVay, Los Angeles Rams’ coach could be a wildcard for Fox or Amazon.