In the wake of ESPN cutting ties with popular on-air talents including Jalen Rose, Jeff Van Gundy and Max Kellerman in order to free up money to pay for newcomer Pat McAfee and his $85-million contract, the Worldwide Leader is reportedly considering bringing in former Fox Sports star Shannon Sharpe.
The former NFL tight end left his co-hosting duties alongside Skip Bayless on Undisputed, which is on hiatus while Fox looks for a new host, last month. According to Front Office Sports, Sharpe is weighing his options and has discussed the possibility of taking a high-profile “contributor” role with ESPN.
Per FOS, Sharpe could join the rotation of hosts, which already includes Michael Irvin, Chris “Mad Dog” Russo and Ryan Clark, who appear on First Take to debate ESPN’s top star Stephen A. Smith. If Tim Tebow did it, why can’t Sharpe? In addition to taking on part-time duties alongside Smith, Sharpe could appear on Sunday NFL Countdown, Monday NFL Countdown and NFL Live.
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If Sharpe did make the leap to ESPN, it would reportedly be on a part-time basis in order to allow him to continue to host his weekly Club Shay Shay podcast as well as score a sponsorship gig with a sports betting company like FanDuel or DraftKings.
“As a part-timer, ESPN chairman Jimmy Pitaro would also not have to dish out a big salary to Sharpe that would raise eyebrows after the painful recent round of layoffs,” per FOS. “The 55-year old Sharpe teaming with Smith against his old partner Bayless would be an act of career revenge worthy of the Count of Monte Cristo. But that’s what happens in sports TV where the salaries are big and the egos are even bigger.”
Whatever Sharpe decides, the expectation is that his future employer will be finalized in August before the kickoff of the 2023 NFL season in early September.
In related ESPN news, longtime late-night SportsCenter anchor Scott Van Pelt will be the new host of Monday Night Countdown this season. He’ll be replacing Suzy Kolber, a legendary figure at ESPN who was laid off in June after 27 years with the company as part of the massive layoffs that also impacted Rose,Van Gundy, Kellerman and others.
On the Fox side of things, the network is still looking for a host to pair with Bayless — and he’s not happy about waiting. “Skip has never done anything like this during all his years at FS1 or ESPN,” a source told FOS. “Not being on the air during all these NBA moves is killing him.”
With Undisputed set to return at the end of August, it seems likely Sharpe will be back on the air before Bayless.