Mina Kimes on NFL Live at the NFL Draft on April 28, 2023. Kansas City, MO – April 28, 2023 – Union Station: Mina Kimes on the set of NFL Live Presented by NerdWallet during the 2023 NFL Draft. (Photo by Joshua R. Gateley / ESPN Images)

Early on Wednesday, Kyle Koster of The Big Lead broke the news that Mina Kimes had signed a deal with Meadowlark Media, and that deal would include weekly appearances on The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz. But, as we noted in our coverage of that, it was far from clear if Kimes was fully taking her talents to South Beach, or if she would also continue in a similar or lessened role at ESPN, or if she would join another network or outlet as well. Well, we now have the answer, with Andrew Marchand of The New York Post reporting later Wednesday that Kimes has signed a giant new deal with ESPN:

Here’s more from that piece:

Analyst Mina Kimes and ESPN have inked a contract that will pay her a little more than $1.7 million per year, according to sources.

She also has a separate deal with Peyton Manning’s Omaha Productions for her podcast. Omaha and ESPN have a partnership agreement.

Kimes’ role with ESPN will basically stay the same, as she’s a featured member of “NFL Live” and makes other appearances on ESPN’s shows.

The ESPN deal is a major raise that moves Kimes from six to seven figures and is in the same neighborhood as her “NFL Live” teammate, Marcus Spears, who signed a four-year deal over the summer.

Marchand notes that there’s no known term for Kimes’ ESPN deal at this point, but that the network is looking to lock its key NFL figures up through 2026-27. That season is when parent corporation Disney will broadcast its first Super Bowl (on ABC). So it’s possible the deal may run at least that long.

However, with this spring and summer’s ESPN layoffs hitting many important figures who still had significant time and money left on their contracts (including Keyshawn Johnson, who worked out a settlement so he could join FS1’s Undisputed), it’s also possible ESPN is shifting to shorter contracts. And Marchand writes that sources told him top ESPN executives were worried about possibly losing Kimes this summer despite her desire to stay there, with the layoffs and public vows to tighten up contract negotiations cited as reasons there. So we’ll have to see if further reporting comes out on how long Kimes’ contract is, but it’s clear she’ll be staying there for a while.

There are several notable elements to this deal. For one thing, it’s significant to see Kimes staying at ESPN and remaining on NFL Live. That’s a role she’s excelled at, but it’s something far different than the writing and Highly Questionable appearances she started her career with the company with. NFL Live has become a durable studio hit for ESPN, though, and Spears recently told AA a big part of that is the chemistry between the regular panelists; the bosses seem to agree, handing out these major extensions to first Spears and now Kimes. And Kimes has certainly proven herself as a NFL analyst in general and a NFL Live panelist in particular at this point, and she drew strong interest from many companies with her deal expiring.

Beyond that, it’s interesting to see ESPN continue to hand out big contracts to select talent they value. They did that with the giant deal to bring in Pat McAfee (which came right around those first layoffs, prompting criticisms), they just did that with a new deal for Scott Van Pelt (including Monday Night Countdown hosting), and they did that with Spears (who will also be appearing on Monday Night Countdown). That adds to the discussions of ESPN focusing more on big on-air names at the top and then less prominent people at the bottom and moving away from mid-range people.

Another significant aspect here is how this deal lets Kimes continue outside work with Omaha (although that’s distributed through ESPN) and take on a regular role with Meadowlark. That used to be much more of an issue at ESPN, with everyone from Dan Patrick to Dan Le Batard to Colin Cowherd to McAfee complaining about ESPN prohibiting talent from appearing on their non-ESPN platforms. But the network reversed that policy in 2021 after McAfee aired his grievances.

And beyond guest spots, many ESPN personalities now have notable outside gigs, from Stephen A. Smith (his podcast with Audacy’s Cadence13) through Pablo Torre (his deal with Meadowlark). And ESPN also now employs many regular contributors who have significant jobs elsewhere, from Alex Rodriguez through Chris “Mad Dog” Russo, Shannon Sharpe, and beyond. So it’s an era where the Worldwide Leader is seemingly no longer as concerned with talent exclusivity. And that makes sense with belt-tightening, and with giving personalities more creative freedom to do things that don’t necessarily fit the ESPN brand (Smith’s podcast in particular stands out there, as do his Fox News appearances). The ESPN/Meadowlark combination looks like a good one for Kimes, and we’ll see how it works out for her.

[The New York Post]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.