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Sunday, May 19, 2024

Sean Payton Negotiating With Fox Sports

  • Former Saints coach would team with Joe Buck if Troy Aikman leaves.
  • Greg Olsen is still in play for the No. 1 job at Fox Sports.
Andrew Wevers-USA TODAY Sports

Fox Sports has started negotiations with Sean Payton about becoming its No. 1 NFL game analyst, sources tell Front Office Sports.

The former New Orleans Saints coach would team with play-by-play announcer Joe Buck if and when Troy Aikman finalizes his exit to either ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” or Amazon’s “Thursday Night Football.

Fox will broadcast two of the next three Super Bowls. If the 58-year old Payton succeeds, he’d immediately leap to the top of sports broadcasting along with Aikman, Tony Romo of CBS Sports, and Cris Collinsworth of NBC Sports. 

But the Super Bowl-winning coach doesn’t have a deal with Fox yet.

Sources told FOS that Payton could expect a contract worth $10 million annually. Aikman is reportedly set to receive a five-year, $90 million deal with ESPN.  

Rising star Greg Olsen excelled as Fox’s No. 2 game analyst this season. The former Carolina Panthers tight end is expected to get a shot at the No. 1 job with Buck. The 36-year-old rising star has options, too. 

Olsen’s been approached by Amazon about a studio gig on “TNF,” said sources. With Aikman now poised to join “MNF”, Olsen could make the leap to No. 1 analyst for Amazon.

Olsen has also been contacted by several NFL teams about coaching and front office positions, said sources. And he’s developing his own podcast network; a signal he’s going all-in on a media career.  

Other Names To Watch

There’s also some wild cards still in play. 

Fox is exploring whether Los Angeles Rams coach Sean McVay wants to jump to TV after winning Super Bowl LVI.

Former analyst John Lynch has reportedly been approached about a return to the booth from his post as general manager of the San Francisco 49ers. 

Some Fox executives have long viewed former San Diego Chargers and Indianapolis Colts quarterback Philip Rivers as another “Dandy” Don Meredith. 

Still, hiring Payton would be a calculated risk. Fox would be gambling that Payton will succeed on TV rather than falling on his face like former “MNF” analyst Jason Witten.

“I think [Fox] takes a one-year risk on Sean Payton – and sees how it goes,” said one source familiar with the network’s strategy. “If it goes well, maybe they ante up, and keep him long-term. If it doesn’t, then Sean Payton returns to coaching.”

But another executive thought Fox would be better building for the long term around Olsen the way it did with Aikman. The former Dallas Cowboys quarterback has served as Fox’s No. 1 analyst since the 2002 season.

“The second [the Cowboys] fire Mike McCarthy, it’s Payton’s job. The whole world knows that,” he said. “It’s tricky to hire a coach who might only do it for one year. You want to build a business. You want to build what you had with [Aikman] for 20 years.”

Meanwhile, Aikman’s departure is sure to raise questions about whether Fox bungled negotiations. 

Despite calling two games a week, the three-time Super Bowl winner was chronically underpaid vs. Romo ($12 million vs. $18 million a year). Fox simply assumed Aikman would never leave – despite him openly talking about joining Amazon in an interview with Front Office Sports.

“This is [ESPN Chairman] Jimmy Pitaro’s greatest victory. They’ve needed to fix the ‘Monday Night Football’ booth since Jon Gruden left. Even when Gruden was there, they butchered it,” said another source.

Fox, ESPN, and Amazon declined comment.

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