The mass exodus of high-profile talent at ESPN is apparently continuing with its NFL coverage, as analyst Trent Dilfer is reportedly leaving the network.
Bob Raissman of the New York Daily News reported over the weekend that Dilfer is walking over a salary stalemate with the network. Richard Deitsch of Sports Illustrated received word Dilfer is still with the network for now but will "likely" be leaving.
"We are in the process of determining our NFL assignments for this fall," ESPN said in a statement, per Deitsch.
Dilfer, 44, has been with ESPN since 2008. He's been a staple of Monday Night Countdown and has done color commentary for occasional games—most notably season-opening Monday Night Football telecasts. As Deitsch noted, Dilfer was considered the heir apparent to Jon Gruden in the MNF booth if the Super Bowl-winning coach ever returned to the sideline.
Dilfer spoke to Cam Inman of the Mercury News on Monday, denying rumors linking him to the San Francisco 49ers. "I have no intention of joining the 49ers," Dilfer told Inman. "I have never been talking with the 49ers about this and I’m focused on continuing my broadcasting opportunities."
An NFL quarterback for 14 seasons, Dilfer was also a well-respected analyst of the position. He offered insight into the mechanics of being an NFL quarterback, often with surprising candor. ESPN may look to transition that role to the newly hired Matt Hasselbeck, who joined the network after announcing his retirement after the 2015 season.
In a macro sense, Dilfer is just the latest in a series of ESPN exits. News broke of the departures of First Take panelist Skip Bayless and MNF play-by-play announcer Mike Tirico last week, continuing a trend that began last year. In 2015, Bill Simmons, Keith Olbermann, Jason Whitlock and Colin Cowherd each left the network—albeit for varying reasons.
ESPN also underwent a massive layoff last October, aimed at cutting costs amid a dip in the company's profitability.
Given Dilfer's increasingly high profile, he shouldn't be looking for work long. NFL Network, CBS, NBC and Fox all carry NFL rights and have studio shows that could benefit from his insight.
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