By now you know Tony Romo has agreed to a record-breaking contract to remain with CBS, agreeing to a $17 million annual salary as part of a total contract that will approach $200 million — thereby surpassing his on-the-field earnings — when it’s all said and done.
But that’s not the entire story.
As CBS braced for the possibility that Romo would leave for ESPN, CBS executives offered Peyton Manning a contract worth between $50 and $60 million to become its top NFL color analyst, according to the New York Post‘s Andrew Marchand, who broke the Romo story on Friday.
The annual salary between $10 and $12 million would have made Manning the highest-paid analyst in NFL history — for a guy with no formal broadcast experience.
Manning has been the NFL media’s most coveted broadcasting prospect ever since he retired after the 2015 season, but to this point has remained out of the broadcast booth. TV networks have made an untold number of formal or informal offers for the NFL’s single-season passing yards and touchdowns leader, and CBS’s offer is the richest on record.
Manning has hosted a pair of football-related shows for ESPN+, but thus far has remained outside of football in a formal capacity. In addition to TV, Manning need just say the word and he could have his is pick of front-office jobs as well — despite having no experience in that field, either.
With ESPN hovering around Romo, CBS executives decided it could no longer wait on an answer from Manning and went with the bird-in-hand in Romo. (Marchand writes that CBS also reached out to Drew Brees; he ultimately decided to play another season.)
Even though the network committed an extra $100+ million to Romo than it would have to Manning, such dollar figures are considered chump change in the high-stakes world of NFL broadcasting. With scripted programming going by the wayside in network television — especially live consumption of such programming, where viewers can’t skip commercials — the NFL is viewed as the last sure thing in TV, and networks feel they can’t survive without it.
As such, Marchand wrote that the outrageous dollars CBS paid Romo was a way for the network to signal to NFL owners that it was serious about remaining in the NFL TV business.
Disney is reportedly preparing to up its investment in the NFL beyond just ESPN’s Monday Night Football package, with the company hoping to secure a package for ABC, which would put the Super Bowl back on ABC’s airwaves for the first time since 2006. (CBS also hosts the Super Bowl for the upcoming 2020 season, another factor in Romo’s favor.)
Romo was a major factor in that strategy, but the former Dallas Cowboys signal-caller is now off the board, and so ESPN will now assuredly make the latest of who-knows-how-many runs at Manning.
If Peyton decided that $10-12 million a year wasn’t worth his time, one shudders to wonder precisely how many Brinks trucks ESPN will have to drop on Peyton’s front lawn before he finally decides he can’t afford to hold out any longer.