According to The Washington Post, Joe Buck is set to leave Fox Sports for ESPN, where he will become the voice of “Monday Night Football.”
Buck, 52, has been the play-by-player on six Super Bowls and has called the World Series for nearly a quarter-century.
According to sources, Fox gave Buck permission to speak with ESPN on Friday. A transaction is anticipated to be completed soon.
Buck’s deal with Fox had one year and about $10 million left on it. Fox, on the other hand, is allowing him to go early as a token of appreciation for his years of devotion to the company. According to insiders, he is set to sign a five-year, $60-$75 million contract with ESPN.
Buck was offered $12 million per year by Fox in an attempt to keep him.
Buck will be in the MNF booth with his longtime companion Troy Aikman at ESPN. According to insiders, Aikman agreed to a five-year, $92.5 million contract, which was first reported by the Washington Post.
Buck is likely to be involved in producing ESPN+ initiatives in addition to calling “Monday Night Football” at ESPN. According to a source, Fox will acquire the ability to choose one Big Ten football game earlier next season in exchange for allowing Buck out of his contract a year early. The Big Ten’s rights are shared by the two networks, and games are chosen using a drafting system. Late Thursday night, the two sides started talking.
Jimmy Pitaro, the chairman of ESPN and a fervent Yankees fan, has embarked on a George Steinbrenner-style shopping spree to glamorise the once-famous MNF booth during the last year.
The New York Post reported about two weeks ago that ESPN and Aikman had agreed to a five-year deal worth $18.5 million per year. It has yet to be announced.
Pitaro added Peyton and Eli Manning for 10 alternate MNF broadcasts every season before last season. While the Mannings’ actual compensation for their famed Manningcast are unclear, they are at least in the Aikman range. Their deal, which was recently renewed, also includes Omaha Productions, which produces “Peyton’s Places” and plans to add more alternative sports broadcasts in the future. This makes calculating the Mannings’ exact per-game rate more difficult.
Regardless, Buck, Aikman, and the Mannings’ star power will cost ESPN roughly $50 million every year. Steve Levy, Louis Riddick Jr., and Brian Griese have been in charge of ESPN’s primary booth for the previous two years. Griese recently left ESPN to become the quarterbacks coach for the San Francisco 49ers.
Buck and Aikman were targets for ESPN’s Super Bowl in 2027. The network also believes it now has the star power to get the NFL to play even better games. It comes at a time when the network is planning to expand from 17 to 25 games by 2023.
Buck’s move to ESPN prevented Al Michaels from joining Aikman at the network. If Buck could not be enticed, ESPN planned to consider Michaels. ESPN chose Buck over Michaels for this type of investment because it wants to have a Super Bowl team in place by 2027.
Michaels, 77, has been on the verge of signing a deal with Amazon to be the voice of the company’s “Thursday Night Football” coverage. He was curious as to who would be his partner. According to insiders, Amazon has reached an agreement with ESPN’s college football expert Kirk Herbstreit. Herbstreit will continue to serve as the lead game analyst on ESPN’s College GameDay.
Michaels is a free agent after NBC decided to replace him as the lead Sunday Night Football play-by-player with Mike Tirico. Last month, Michaels called the Super Bowl for NBC.
Meanwhile, with Buck gone, sources say Kevin Burkhardt is the obvious favourite to be Fox’s top NFL play-by-player, which is significant on several levels, including the fact that Fox will broadcast two of the next three Super Bowls.
Despite the fact that Burkhardt is the favourite, Fox will debate whether or not to pursue Michaels. In his career, Michaels has called 11 Super Bowls on television, tying the late Pat Summerall for the most ever.
If Burkhardt and Greg Olsen are promoted, Fox may have a Super Bowl broadcast team that earns $3-$4 million combined. According to sources, Olsen made roughly $1.7 million as a rookie last year. They might try to renegotiate, but they’re not going to get anywhere near the Buck/Aikman range. After Tony Romo’s historic 10-year, $180 million contract with CBS two years ago, Buck and Aikman were able to enter this salary sphere.
Aside from Olsen, Fox might look to trade for NBC’s Drew Brees or try to recruit Tom Brady to the booth. Sean Payton has been approached by Fox, but it is for a studio job. It has great hopes for its lead college football analyst Joel Klatt, but he is unlikely to be moved to the NFL.
Buck has been the World Series announcer for the past 24 years. According to insiders, Joe Davis is the obvious favourite to be named MLB manager. Internally, Adam Amin, ESPN’s Dan Shulman, and MLB Network’s Matt Vasgersian are also possible options. If Burkhardt is elevated to the No. 1 NFL team, Amin, Davis, and possibly college football play-by-player Gus Johnson might be considered for the No. 2 seat.
Buck joined Fox Sports in 1994 and has been the network’s face ever since. He was the youngest person to ever call the NFL on a full-time basis when he was 25 years old.
He tied Michaels for the youngest play-by-player in the World Series two years later, when he was behind the microphone for Fox as rookie Derek Jeter and the Yankees won their dynasty’s first title.
Summerall and John Madden were replaced by Buck, Aikman, and Cris Collinsworth two decades ago, in 2002. Collinsworth left for NBC after three seasons with the couple. Buck received the Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award from the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2020.
He’s now on his way to ESPN, where the two parties are anticipated to reach an agreement soon.