The official start to free agency is less than two weeks away. Though, if a new report is true, the biggest acquisition surrounding the NFL may take place in the broadcast booth, not on the football field.
The New York Post’s Andrew Marchand reports that ESPN is looking to give their Monday Night Football booth a completely new look by bringing in current NBC play-by-play man Al Michaels, and teaming him up with retired NFL legend Peyton Manning.
Manning has reportedly emerged as ESPN’s preferred color commentator after CBS took Tony Romo off the table by signing him to a $180 million deal.
Marchand also reports that ESPN has interest in former Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers. Though, Rivers has said he plans to continue playing football.
ESPN currently has the broadcast team of Joe Tessitore and Booger McFarland in the MNF booth.
According to Marchand:
The network believes a Michaels-Manning pairing would have the same sizzle as Michaels-Romo. Michaels, 75, is arguably the best NFL TV play-by-player ever, while Manning is one of the greatest quarterbacks in history.
Talks between NBC/Comcast and Disney/ESPN have yet to begin. Since Michaels has two years remaining on his contract, NBC could simply turn down ESPN’s request.
‘Al is under contract for the foreseeable future,’ NBC spokesman Greg Hughes said.
ESPN declined comment.
While it’s difficult to find a reason why NBC would willingly part with Michaels, there could be sentimental and business related reasons for doing so. Michaels, as Marchand notes, handled play-by-play duties for MNF for a long time and played a large role in continuing the vaunted status of that broadcast. By allowing Michaels to return to MNF, NBC would allow him to return to the brand he helped create, if that’s something Michaels even wants to do.
NBC wouldn’t be left in the lurch either. Mike Tirico, whom NBC acquired from ESPN years ago, is slated to replace Michaels on the network’s Sunday Night Football broadcast anyway.
A big part of hiring Michaels, 75, even if he only works for ESPN briefly, is luring Peyton Manning out of retirement. Manning and Michaels have a reportedly good relationship, a factor which has no doubt played a role in ESPN’s pursuit of him.
Follow Dylan Gwinn on Twitter @themightygwinn