It is rare that groundshaking football and sports media news comes from a FOX earnings call, but that's just what happened on Tuesday as Lachlan Murdoch announced Tom Brady would be joining Fox Sports as a lead NFL analyst. Once he retires, that is, and nobody knows when that will be. Maybe not even Brady.
Regardless, it's a huge coup for FOX. Brady was going to be a Peyton Manning sequel in terms of pursuit from NFL rightsholding companies to preside over broadcasts. The term "white whale" was inevitably going to be thrown around. Yet FOX put a stop to any speculation before it even began. It's especially big after the company lost its No. 1 booth to ESPN this offseason.
The natural follow-up question to the news is how much FOX is paying for the privilege of having the greatest QB of all time on the roster. That question is dependent on what, exactly, Brady is going to be doing. Calling him a "lead NFL analyst" is perfectly vague and doesn't indicate if he'll be in the studio or in the booth on Sundays. Brady has spent the last two decades away from home every Sunday afternoon and it wouldn't be surprising if he didn't want to sign up for the travel required to be the No. 1 analyst in a booth, but just sitting at home clearly didn't do it for the QB during his brief retirement stint earlier this year.
If Brady ends up in the booth alongside Kevin Burkhardt, Fox Sports' new No. 1 PBP man, or whoever else then he'll be making the big bucks. We all know about Tony Romo's $18 million/year annual salary. Aikman signed a five-year deal worth $90 million which amounts to the same amount yearly. Buck's deal with ESPN is worth slightly less, coming in at $75 million over five years. Where could Brady land in that range?
It is important to note that part of the reason the names above earned such a high yearly figure is because they're locked in for a long period of time. It's no guarantee that Brady signs a similar deal. He's never done this before, after all. It seems probable that both sides were more interested in a short-term deal at a high annual salary to see how everybody likes the arrangement before committing to five seasons or longer.
If that is the case, Brady could very well end up setting the industry record for annual salary. A two-year deal worth $40 million doesn't seem out of the question at all. FOX gets to capitalize on the Brady brand for a minimum of two seasons. Brady gets a massive bag and gets to feel things out for a few years before deciding how he wants to proceed with the rest of his retirement. If he loves the analysis game, he can re-up for an even bigger deal. If he wants to branch out into ownership or whatever else inspires Brady to get out of bed in the morning, he can do that without locking himself into a long-term arrangement.
Brady will not be cheap. The lack of a true bidding war for his services might have lowered his price point but not by much. Whether it's just regular expensive or record-setting expensive is the real question.
UPDATE: We now know how much Fox Sports will pay Tom Brady. And, uh, I was a little off. Andrew Marchand of the New York Post reports Brady has commanded an insane, absurd, preposterous contract worth $375 million over 10 years.