Will Drew Brees Leave New Orleans After This Season? ESPN Wants to Add Saints QB to Its Monday Night Football Booth

Drew Brees may have recently signed a two-year deal extension with the New Orleans Saints, but ESPN has reportedly not given up on plans to make the veteran quarterback the new face of Monday Night Football (MNF) show.

Just over two weeks ago, the 41-year-old officially re-signed with the Saints, putting pen to paper on a two-year contract worth $50 million, which includes a $23 million signing bonus and seemingly putting an end to speculations that he may swap the football field for the commentary booth.

It did not take long, however, for Brees' future to be brought into question again after Saints coach Sean Payton accidentally seemed to lift the lid on his star's plans. "The unique situation with our team and with our quarterback, Drew Brees, is he's announced he's coming back for his final season," Payton told ESPN's Get Up last Wednesday.

While the Saints coach may have simply misspoken, his comments further fueled speculations the former Purdue alumni's career in the NFL may come to an end this season.

According to the New York Post, ESPN has been monitoring the situation and is attempting to convince Brees to join its MNF team when he retires and has tabled an offer north of $6 million per year to Brees. The figure is believed to be close to what current Las Vegas head coach Jon Gruden made during his final seasons on MNF, when he pocketed around $ 6.5 million a year, and slightly below the $7 million-a-year salary FOX Sports is paying Troy Aikman.

When contacted by Newsweek, ESPN declined to comment.

Significantly, the annual figure reported by the Post would be almost twice the amount of the rookie contract signed with CBS in 2017. The former Dallas Cowboys quarterback penned a three-year deal worth approximately $3 million a year with the broadcaster, which was due to expire at the end of last season.

Romo's seamless transition from star quarterback to the most in-demand analyst in the game saw him courted by various broadcasters at the beginning of the year, including ESPN. In January, Michael McCarthy of Front Office Sports reported the broadcaster was preparing a multi-year deal worth between $10 million and $14 million to lure Romo away from CBS and make him the highest-paid sport broadcaster in the history of American television.

The 39-year-old, however, opted to remain with CBS and at the end of February signed the largest sport analyst contract in TV history, agreeing to a 10-year deal worth approximately $17 million per season.

Having missed out on Romo, ESPN turned its attention to Philip Rivers and Peyton Manning. The former, however, signed a one-year deal with the Indianapolis Colts to continue his playing career, while the latter reportedly indicated he wasn't interested in the role of TV analyst.

At the end of last month, Outkick the Coverage first mentioned ESPN had identified Brees as its next target and the Post reported the broadcaster was currently the highest-bidder for the Saints quarterback, but it faced competition from both NBC and FOX Sports, which broadcast Sunday Night Football and Thursday Night Football respectively.

MNF has come under scrutiny for lacking the oomph and pizzaz of rival broadcast booths and it is arguably still searching for an adequate replacement for John Madden, who left ABC in 2005, the final season during which the broadcaster held the rights to the show.

In the 15 intervening years, the role has been filled by Joe Theismann, Tony Kornheiser, Ron Jaworski, Gruden, Jason Witten and Anthony "Booger" McFarland, who was promoted to the role in May last year.

Aside from Gruden, however, none of those who have followed Madden have lived up to the veteran broadcaster's standards.

Despite the criticism, viewing figures have been pleasing for ESPN. Last month the broadcaster reported Monday Night Football recorded its highest audience since 2015, finishing the 17-game schedule in 2019 with 12,569,000, an eight percent increase from the previous year.

The program ranked as cable's most-watched series for the third straight year and the increase in viewership marked the second consecutive season with an eight percent rise in viewership, with audience up an overall 17 percent from the 2017 season.

ESPN is also keeping its options open with Steve Levy, Louis Riddick and Dan Orlovsky emerging as the main candidates to be in the MNF booth next season.

Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints stands on the field during the NFC Wild Card Playoff game against the Minnesota Vikings at Mercedes Benz Superdome on January 5 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Sean Gardner/Getty