Fox Sports has lifted another top ESPN commentator as it continues to transform its NFL game coverage, The Post has learned.
Super Bowl Champion Jonathan Vilma has decided to leave ESPN/ABC and will sign with Fox to be an NFL game analyst, according to sources. Vilma will likely work with Kenny Albert on Sundays in the fall.
Besides the Vilma signing from ESPN, Fox has picked off three others from ESPN. Up-and-coming play-by-player Adam Amin will be in Fox’s NFL and MLB booths. Meanwhile, FS1 is bringing in Emmanuel Acho for its morning sports talks shows and Fox News/Fox Nation is expected to take current ESPN Radio talk show host Will Cain. Fox has not yet officially confirmed any of the moves.
In the wake of the downturn in the economy that has greatly impacted Disney and ESPN, the company has tightened up its wallet in negotiations, but it wanted to keep Vilma and may have even offered a little bit more money than Fox. ESPN’s commitment was believed to be for more work dates than Fox, which makes the money difference smaller.
Vilma, 38, strongly considered staying with Disney as he enjoyed his role on ABC college football pregame, where his co-analyst was Mark Sanchez, and his appearances on ESPN shows such as “Get Up” during the week. Ultimately, NFL game analyst jobs do not come along that often and Vilma will have room to grow at Fox, having already shown he can do studio and can now expand into games.
Albert previously worked with Ronde Barber. Fox did not renew Barber’s contract last year. Fox likes Albert’s experience as Vilma will be a rookie NFL analyst.
Vilma was the Jets’ first-round pick in 2004 and became a three-time Pro Bowler. He won a Super Bowl with the Saints and also was part of 2001 University of Miami national championship team, which is considered one of the great college teams in history. He was implicated by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in the Bountygate scandal, but later had his one-year suspension in 2012 was eventually fully overturned.
Fox still does not have a No. 2 analyst to team with Kevin Burkhardt after CBS swiped Charles Davis for the same level NFL role. Fox had its eyes firmly on Greg Olsen for the job, but Olsen decided to play one more season after the Seahawks offered him $7 million. Fox still wants Olsen for after he retires.
In the meantime, it is being patient in filling Davis’ spot for this season with Daryl Johnston and Mark Schlereth as potential one-year solutions, according to sources.
Joe Buck and Troy Aikman remain atop Fox Sports’ NFL game pyramid as the network’s lead voices on Sundays and Thursdays.
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