As the NFL free agency period officially kicks off, two of the sport’s biggest names are officially switching teams. Play-by-play commentator Joe Buck and analyst Troy Aikman are moving from Fox Sports to ESPN.
The duo, who have called games together since 2002, will be the new broadcast team for ESPN’s Monday Night Football. The move was officially announced today and they will be joined by Lisa Salters—who will continue her duties as the main sideline reporter—and John Parry will continue to be the officiating analyst.
Terms of the agreements were not announced.
“When you have the opportunity to bring in the iconic, longest-running NFL broadcasting duo, you take it, especially at a time when we are on the cusp of a new era in our expanding relationship with the NFL,” said ESPN chairman Jimmy Pitaro in a statement.
As part of ESPN’s new agreement with the NFL, starting this fall, the number of games ESPN will broadcast each season will increase from 20 to 22. This includes an additional Monday Night Football game that will air exclusively on ABC—and an international game exclusive to ESPN’s streaming service ESPN+.
Last year ESPN began airing its doubleheader games on the final week of the season and is set to have three weeks with multiple games this season, with that number jumping to five in the 2023-24 and continuing for 10 seasons.
This means that Buck and Aikman won’t be in the booth when Fox broadcasts Super Bowl 57 next year. But ESPN/ABC will air the 2026 and 2030 Super Bowls.
No word yet on how many games Buck and Aikman will call with the additional games being added, but their expected regular-season debut will be on Sept. 12. The duo will also contribute content to ESPN+.
ESPN has been on the hunt for an iconic broadcast team for its marquee franchise since losing Mike Tirico in 2015 and John Gruden in 2017 and has used multiple teams, each not living up to that ideal.
For the past two seasons, the network used Steve Levy, Brian Griese and Louis Riddick. Prior to that, Joe Tessitore and Booger McFarland were in the booth in 2019, while the previous year had Jason Witten, Tessitore and McFarland.
Things are starting to gel for the sports network with regards to its Monday night franchise. Last year, ESPN successfully launched the ESPN Manningcast featuring former NFL quarterbacks and siblings Peyton and Eli Manning. They will be back again this upcoming season, calling select NFL games on ESPN 2.
As for Fox, losing Buck and Aikman is a big blow for them as they now have a huge hole to fill with its NFL slate of games, as well as the MLB, where Buck was the lead commentator.
It looks like the network will look internally to fill those roles, with likely candidates being Kevin Burkhardt and Greg Olsen on the NFL side and Joe Davis sliding in on the MLB side.