Joe Buck was expecting to leave Fox Sports for a huge ESPN deal

Joe Buck is expected to leave Fox Sports for ESPN, where he will be the voice of “Monday Night Football,” The Post has learned.

Buck, 52, has called the World Series for nearly a quarter of a century and was Fox’s play-by player at six Super Bowls.

Sources said Fox gave Buck permission to speak to ESPN on Friday. A deal should be made shortly.

At Fox, Buck had one year left on his contract at $11 million. However, Fox is letting him out early as a good gesture for his years of service with the company. He is expected to sign a five-year deal in the $60 million to $75 million range with ESPN, sources say.

At ESPN, Buck will join longtime partner Troy Aikman at the MNF booth. The Post previously reported that Aikman left Fox to become MNF’s analyst. According to sources, Aikman agreed to a five-year, $92.5 million deal.

At ESPN, Buck is expected to not only credit “Monday Night Football,” but also be involved in the production of ESPN+ projects.

Over the past year, ESPN chairman Jimmy Pitaro, a die-hard Yankee fan, has been on a George Steinbrenner-esque shopping spree to glamorize the once-vaunted MNF booth.

Almost two weeks ago, The Post reported that ESPN and Aikman agreed to a five-year, $18.5 million-per-year deal. It hasn’t been announced yet.

Joe Buck and Troy Aikman
Buck will join Troy Aikman at ESPN
Roy Rochlin/Getty Images

Prior to last season, Pitaro added Peyton and Eli Manning for 10 alternate MNF shows per season. While the Mannings’ exact salaries are unknown for their acclaimed Manningcast, at least it is in the Aikman neighborhood. Their agreement, recently renewed, also includes Omaha Productions producing Peyton’s Places and plans to add more alternative shows for other sports. This makes it difficult to accurately calculate Manning’s rate per game.

Nonetheless, star power from Buck, Aikman and the Mannings will cost ESPN around $50 million a year. ESPN’s main booth for the past two years has been Steve Levy, Louis Riddick Jr. and Brian Griese. Griese has already left ESPN to become quarterback coach for the 49ers.

ESPN wanted Buck and Aikman for its 2027 Super Bowl. The network also believes it now has the star power to attract even better games from the NFL. It comes at a time when the network will add games that will be pushed back from 17 to 25 by 2023.

When Buck moved to ESPN, Al Michaels was blocked from joining Aikman there. ESPN planned to consider Michaels if Buck couldn’t lure it. ESPN preferred Buck over Michaels for this type of spending as it wanted to field its Super Bowl team for 2027.

Michaels, 77, was on the one-yard line with Amazon to be the voice of his “Thursday Night Football” coverage. He had wanted to know who his partner would be. Sources say Amazon has struck a deal with ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit. Herbstreit will remain on ESPN’s College GameDay and as senior game analyst.

Michaels is a free agent because NBC decided to replace him with Mike Tirico as the lead Sunday Night Football play-by player. Michaels called the Super Bowl for NBC last month.

Meanwhile, with Buck gone, Kevin Burkhardt is the internal favorite to be Fox’s lead NFL play-by player, which is significant on many levels, including because Fox has two of the next three Super Bowls on the airwaves Has.

While Burkhardt is the favorite, Fox will have internal talks on whether or not to go after Michaels. Michaels has called out 12 televised Super Bowls in his career, the most with Pat Summerall ever.

If Fox promotes Burkhardt with Greg Olsen, it could have a Super Bowl broadcast team making $3 million to $4 million combined. Olsen was a rookie last year and earned around $1.7 million, according to sources. They might try renegotiating, but they won’t get anywhere near the Buck/Aikman spread. Buck and Aikman only got into that pay sphere after Tony Romo’s landmark 10-year, $180 million deal at CBS two years ago.

Alongside Olsen, Fox could consider trading for NBC’s Drew Brees or see if it could lure Tom Brady to the booth. It has spoken to Sean Payton, but more for a studio job. It’s high on his top college football analyst Joel Klatt, but he’s not expected to be promoted to the NFL.

Buck has been the voice of the World Series for 24 years. Fox will be considering Joe Davis and Adam Amin internally, while also looking externally at ESPN’s Dan Shulman and MLB Network’s Matt Vasgersian, sources said. If Burkhardt is promoted to the NFL’s No. 1 team, it will free up the No. 2 spot that Amin, Davis and possibly college football play-by player Gus Johnson could take.

Buck, 52, started at Fox Sports in 1994 and was the face of the network. At 25, he became the youngest person to ever call the NFL on a full-time basis.

Just two years later, at 27, he was also the youngest play-by player for the World Series as he helmed Fox as rookie Derek Jeter as the Yankees won the first title of their dynasty.

Two decades ago, in 2002, he, Aikman and Cris Collinsworth succeeded Summerall and John Madden. They were together for three seasons before Collinsworth left for NBC. In 2020, Buck was named a recipient of the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award.

He now moves to ESPN, where the two sides are expected to reach an agreement shortly. Joe Buck was expecting to leave Fox Sports for a huge ESPN deal


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