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Hall of Famer Troy Aikman is expected to leave Fox Sports to become the main analyst for ESPN’s “Monday Night Football,” The Post has learned.
Aikman’s ESPN deal will be for five years, according to sources, and his yearly salary is expected to approach or exceed the neighborhood of Tony Romo’s $17.5 million per year contract with CBS. The deal is not yet signed, but it is near completion.
ESPN declined comment.
Aikman’s seismic move will shake-up NFL TV free agency. Already this offseason, the contract of Al Michaels, arguably the greatest NFL play-by-player of all time, ran out with NBC.
Michaels, 77, has been on the 1-yard line in his negotiations to be the lead play-by-play voice when Amazon Prime Video begins its exclusive coverage of “Thursday Night Football.” Michaels had hoped Aikman would join him on Thursday nights.
Though Rams head coach Sean McVay has said he will continue on the sidelines this year, Amazon could make a serious run at him, according to sources. Tom Brady can’t be fully counted out as a candidate, but it should be stressed he has shown no indication he wants to work in a booth.
ESPN currently has Steve Levy, Louis Riddick Jr. and Brian Griese as its lead “Monday Night Football” team. Over the next few years, ESPN will have an expansion in NFL games from 18 to 25. They will need multiple crews to call them.
While ESPN has considered making a run at Michaels — it hasn’t done so yet — there is another wild possibility.
With Joe Buck’s contact up next year, sources said ESPN could try to pry Buck from Fox. Buck also calls the World Series for the network. Fox would have to grant Buck permission if he wanted to leave early.
Meanwhile, Fox suddenly has a hole atop its No. 1 broadcast team with two Super Bowls in the next three years. Fox, however, has added depth to its NFL analyst group in recent years.
It will consider its No. 2 analyst Greg Olsen, McVay, Sean Payton and, in a twist, could try to trade for NBC’s Drew Brees, according to sources. Brees, who is in NBC’s studio, is also a candidate for Amazon on Thursday nights.
Fox will also wait if a mystery candidate, someone not apparent right now, arises. 49ers GM and ex-TV game analyst John Lynch could fall into this category for either Amazon or Fox.
Fox would also have interest in Brady, but, if the network wasn’t going to match ESPN for Aikman, it seems impossible to believe it would go into the stratosphere it would take to possibly even entice Brady.
Like Peyton Manning, Brady will be able to choose when and if he wants to be in a booth. Manning and his brother, Eli, are scheduled to do 10 telecasts basically over Zoom the next three years. Their rookie year edition of the Manningcast on ESPN2 for Monday night games was very well received.
It was almost exactly two years ago in February 2020 that Romo’s deal with CBS for 10 years and $180 million changed the NFL analyst industry, as it was the richest in history.
Aikman has been in the booth far longer than Romo. Before this past season, according to sources, Aikman used the leverage he had to make this new deal possible.
He had an out in his contract in which he could say he would not do “Thursday Night Football” this season. With that leverage, Fox agreed to give Aikman a four-year extension at $13.2 million per year, according to sources.
There was one final stipulation to the contract — Aikman could opt out after this season if he were to secure a bigger and better contract, according to sources.
For the past year, Aikman has flirted with leaving. He spoke openly about possibly going to Amazon.
In the end, ESPN, which has been trying to figure out its top booth for years, came in with the strongest offer yet.
Aikman’s new deal will run through Super Bowl 61 in 2027. That is no coincidence, as that game will be televised by ABC/ESPN. The next question is: Who will Aikman’s booth partner be?