Tony Romo’s reign as the highest-paid sports broadcaster of all time might only last a week.
After missing out on Romo, ESPN is preparing to offer Peyton Manning $18 to $20 million per year to serve as lead analyst on “Monday Night Football,” according to Front Office Sports.
ESPN was previously reported to be interested in forming a dream booth with Manning and play-by-play legend Al Michaels, currently under contract for two more years with NBC.
Manning has reportedly met with ESPN executives over the last few days. He already has a pre-existing role at ESPN, hosting his own documentary series “Peyton’s Places” on the network’s ESPN+ streaming service.
Will Peyton Manning still be able to turn down ESPN?
Manning retired as a player in 2016 and has been atop the network’s wish list as a potential color man ever since. He is well known as one of the most cerebral players to ever play the game, and has an enormous amount of television experience to boot between commercials, “Peyton’s Places” and “Saturday Night Live” guest-hosting.
If there is another Romo out there that can elevate a network’s reputation while delivering constant viral moments, Manning is probably it.
ESPN has brought on two “Monday Night Football” analysts — Jason Witten and Booger McFarland — since Manning’s retirement and both have flopped in the eyes of many fans, something ESPN likely doesn’t want to repeat next year. Manning famously spurned ESPN after Witten left to resume his playing career.
"I talked to the Monday night football folks,” Manning said at the time. “I enjoyed talking to the them. I had great conversation. It wasn’t the right time this year. Maybe it will never be."
We’ll see if $20 million can make it the right time.
Tony Romo’s deal already changing market
Romo landed a $17 million per year deal to stay with CBS last week, agreeing to the monster number during CBS’ exclusive negotiating window.
ESPN was reportedly willing to offer Romo a 10-year, $140 million deal had he become available for contract talks, and will now go even higher salary-wise for Manning.
To put a $20 million salary into perspective, ESPN has paid $1.9 billion per year just to air “Monday Night Football,” so the network will be willing to pay plenty to make sure it has the right analyst to attract viewers. Of course, Manning has already made around $250 million as a player, not to mention his vast endorsement deals, so it’s not like he’s hurting for money.
Per Front Office Sports, Manning has been more interested in the John Elway or Derek Jeter route of running or owning a team than in broadcasting.
ESPN’s MNF contract runs out in 2021, a year before NBC, CBS and Fox’s deals to air the rest of the NFL schedule expire. ESPN reportedly views Manning as its ticket to finally entering the Super Bowl channel rotation, and would make him the face of the network’s television coverage if it lands him.
If ESPN is unable to land Manning, a reported Plan B could be Kurt Warner, currently with NFL Network, with Louis Riddick, Matt Hasselbeck, and Dan Orlovsky as potential in-house options.
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