Shannon Sharpe signed off from Undisputed for the last time today. During his emotional goodbye speech to all the producers at Fox Sports and his co-host, Skip Bayless, Sharpe revealed he did not know what was next for him yet.
Sharpe's absence has been in the works for a few weeks, so it's a bit of a surprise that he doesn't have something lined up already. His appeal as a personality is obvious, though. Sharpe is a pretty well-known name, with a Hall of Fame NFL resume coupled with seven years' worth of everyday studio appearances for Fox. As far as media free agents go Sharpe is nearly as big as they get, and he'll have a lot of choices when it comes to the next step for his career.
What might those choices be? Here are a few possibilities.
Many assume ESPN will be in contention for Sharpe's services because the four-letter and Fox Sports are the two titans of the 24-hour sports talk industry. If guys want to give takes for a living, they either work at Fox or ESPN. It would make sense as a next step for Sharpe when thinking big-picture, but there's no clear path to a spot there.
Where would Sharpe go? Stephen A. Smith recently said he'd welcome Sharpe to First Take but not as a full-time co-host. Rather he would join the rotating panelists who take turns appearing. That's a step down for Sharpe. He could join the Keyshawn, JWill, & Max crew, but four would be a crowd so one of the current co-hosts would have to go. That would be more trouble than it's worth. The same thought process applies to the afternoon shows. On top of it all, ESPN is currently undergoing layoffs and just spent a fortune to bring Pat McAfee aboard. Doing that again for Sharpe would be a pretty tough sell.
It would be a great opportunity for Sharpe to increase his visibility even further, but other than that the match doesn't make a ton of sense for either side.
If Sharpe wants to strike out on his own and create a new show, FanDuel TV is the place to go right now. The company is investing in personality-centric shows in an effort to build out something close to a 24-hour sports show cycle. He could just do what he's doing with Club ShayShay now but onscreen, or he could create something completely different. Sharpe is a big enough name with enough connections that FDTV would probably give him a blank check. He'd be arguably the most famous personality on the network's roster and would likely receive the resources to reflect that. There's a big opportunity here for Sharpe to do whatever he wants.
We're not sure Sharpe wants to return to the everyday television appearances, while being required to provide a strong take on every piece of news that emerges. He could strike more of a balance between takes and true analysis or interviews if given the opportunity to curate his own program, but it remains the sort of constant grind that not everybody aspires to commit to. There are a lot of other opportunities in media for Sharpe to enjoy himself and get paid without needing to drive 15 or 20 hours of television-worthy content every week of the year.
Once upon a time not so long ago, Sharpe owned a weekly spot on CBS' NFL pregame show, NFL Today. It was his first foray into broadcasting after his playing career and he spent 10 years there before he was replaced, leading him to Undisputed. Could he potentially return to NFL Today, a decade after he got pushed out?
It makes some sense. Should Sharpe decide he's done with the constant churn of takes required from every day studio shows, doing an NFL pregame show would be a good fit. And of the rights-holding networks that boast such pregame shows, going back to CBS makes the most sense. ESPN has aforementioned roadblocks to throwing a bunch of money at another NFL personality, Sharpe's working relationship with Fox is done for now, and NBC's Football Night In America doesn't leave a lot of space for personality to shine through from its panel members. Just like back when Sharpe was part of the crew, the NFL Today panel features former players and leans a bit goofier than its counterparts across the industry.
We don't know how things ended between Sharpe and CBS but if he'd rather have his schedule consist of one day of work every week along with some podcasting, this arrangement seems ideal.