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Report: ESPN May Try To Poach Jim Nantz From CBS

Tony Romo and Jim Nantz on CBS.

CBS.

Jim Nantz has been the face of CBS Sports for decades, calling Super Bowls, the Final Four, and the Masters for the network. For months, rumors have been floated out there that he wants a massive deal, to close in on the huge contract that CBS gave Tony Romo, his NFL broadcast partner.

Romo makes over $17 million per year. In November, it was reported that Nantz, whose salary is currently at $6 million per year, wants a raise from CBS up to Romo's pay grade, which would obviously be a gigantic jump for the 61-year old play-by-play man.

Nantz's desire for a raise is one thing. It was unclear if he had any more realistic leverage, with most of the major play-by-play gigs elsewhere currently occupied. However, a potential role with ESPN may now be a feather in his cap, per a new report.

According to a new report by Front Office Sports, ESPN is interested in bringing in the veteran broadcaster to call NFL and golf. It would be pretty jarring to see him head elsewhere, but the threat could help him get what he wants from CBS.

Ahead of Jim Nantz calling the Super Bowl with Tony Romo on Sunday, Michael McCarthy reported on ESPN's potential interest in the long-time broadcaster. It could throw a serious wrench in CBS' long term plans.

If Nantz hits free agency this summer, ESPN is interested in possibly making him the face of its NFL and Masters golf coverage, said sources. With ESPN parent Walt Disney Co. poised to land one — if not two — NFL TV packages, Nantz could be on the mic as ABC/ESPN broadcast future Super Bowls.

But a CBS Sports spokeswoman made clear the network wants to retain its longtime star. “We expect Jim to be at CBS Sports for many years to come,” she told FOS in a statement. ESPN declined to comment.

ESPN has struggled to shore up its NFL team, with Monday Night Football going through a few iterations since Mike Tirico's departure for NBC, and Jon Gruden's return to the sideline to coach the Las Vegas Raiders.

2020's new grouping—Steve Levy, Brian Griese, and Louis Riddick—was seen as an improvement on the much maligned Joe Tessitore and Booger McFarland team of the last few years, but it certainly doesn't stack up with the top options from the other networks. Nantz would give ESPN an elite play-by-play voice. There's also the chance that the broadcasts could move back to ABC, which could further entice him. ESPN could also use Nantz to try and overtake CBS for control of the Master's—a hugely important event for him—which would be a real coup.

After shedding the salaries of expensive talents like Dan Le Batard, Mike Golic Sr., Trey Wingo and Michelle Beadle, the cost-cutting Disney/ESPN is going all-in on the NFL. Nantz could headline live NFL coverage if games return to ABC, the original home of “Monday Night Football.”

ESPN and CBS split Masters coverage, with ESPN showing weekday rounds and CBS airing the higher-rated weekend coverage.

ESPN could use Nantz’s strong relationships with the green-jacketed members at Augusta National Golf Club to score the Masters’ Saturday-Sunday coverage, which has been held by CBS for 65 years.

CBS insists that it will have Jim Nantz on their air for the long haul, and if they compete with ESPN's potential salary offer, they will probably hold on to him. It does sound like there's at least a real threat of him leaving though.

[Front Office Sports]