As ESPN attempts to remake their Monday Night Football booth, they’ve courted two former NFL quarterbacks for their top analyst job, Tony Romo and Peyton Manning.
So far ESPN has missed on both former quarterback targets.
Just before his contract hit the open market, Romo signed a deal worth $18 million a year to stay with CBS. Romo’s contract came shortly after Outkick reported that Romo’s yearly salary demands had pushed past $15 million a year. After missing out on a chance for Romo, ESPN pivoted and chased Peyton Manning, who, according to a report in the New York Post, ultimately turned down an eight figure deal from the network to enter the Monday Night Football booth.
The double rejections have left ESPN uncertain what to do with their Monday Night Football booth of the future.
So who is ESPN’s latest target?
Another top quarterback, only this one is still playing.
Outkick has learned ESPN has made an eight figure offer to current New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees to become the network’s Monday Night Football lead analyst. Brees’s ascendance to the Monday Night Football booth would begin as soon as he retires from the NFL.
The 41 year old quarterback debated retirement this off-season before electing to return for at least one more year. Brees, who presently makes $25 million a year this year and is also on track to make $25 million next year, recently donated $5 million to Louisiana charities. He’s a beloved figure in the NFL and there is a nearly universal belief among television executives that he would be fantastic in the broadcast booth.
While he has at least one year remaining on the field, an agreement between Brees and ESPN would solidify ESPN’s Monday Night Football booth for the future. In seeking to lock up Brees ESPN is attempting to avoid a potential bidding war with NBC, which might be interested in Brees as well.
While the two sides have not agreed to terms yet, the plan would be for a deal between Brees and ESPN to remain quiet until Brees officially retires. That’s because there is some trepidation inside Disney about announcing an eight figure yearly deal in the midst of the coronavirus shut down of the company’s sports properties, which could soon lead to layoffs. Not to mention the awkwardness of a player who is still currently playing already having agreed to a post-playing career job in the media.
Since Brees has at least one year left on the field, this would leave ESPN with a decision to make about what to do with its broadcast booth for the 2020 season as well. Do they stick with Joe Tessitore and Booger McFarland for another season? Bring in a new crew for one season before making way for Brees? That’s still to be determined.
While there might be awkwardness there, the deal would send a powerful message to the NFL about ESPN’s commitment to the league in the years ahead, which is the driving force behind the negotiations. Presently ESPN’s Monday Night Football deal expires at the end of the 2021 season, but with the NFL CBA having been ratified all the television networks are preparing for the NFL bidding process going forward. Having Brees locked up would allow ESPN to provide a road map for what their future Monday Night Football booth would look like to the NFL, potentially allowing ESPN to increase the quality of their Monday Night Football games, lock in more playoff games in an expanded NFL playoff field, and maybe even expand their broadcast partnership with the NFL overall.
Locking in Brees for eight figures a year would also continue the salary escalation for top talent in the broadcast booth, particularly for quarterbacks with hall of fame caliber resumes.
Everyone wants their own version of Tony Romo in the years ahead and ESPN believes Drew Brees could be theirs.
As a result, they’re willing to pay up in a big way to keep him from going anywhere else.