Jason Kelce NBC Screen grab: NFL on NBC

The start of the NFL offseason is still a few months away, but one of the league’s biggest free agents has already hit the open market.

After all, it’s not every day that a media savvy All-Pro player who also happens to be one of the sexiest men alive retires, thus making him one of the most coveted former players for TV networks in recent memory.

Only that’s exactly what happened on Tuesday, with ESPN’s Adam Schefter reporting that Jason Kelce has informed his teammates that he will retire following the Philadelphia Eagles’ season-ending loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the Wild Card round. And while every NFL-affiliated network will presumably be interested in hiring the co-host of New Heights with Jason and Travis Kelce as an analyst, there’s already one obvious fit that stands out from the rest.

If ever there was a season that exposed NBC’s lack of depth in the broadcast booth, it was this past year, as on multiple occasions, former Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett filled in for Cris Collinsworth alongside Mike Tirico on Sunday Night Football. And with all due respect to Garrett, he is neither polished enough as a broadcaster nor a big enough name for one of the league’s top television properties — especially compared to ESPN, CBS and Fox’s current broadcast booths (and that’s before Fox adds Tom Brady to its lineup later this tear).

In fact, NBC’s bench is so thin that it turned to its top college football team (Noah Eagle and Todd Blackledge) to call the Wild Card matchup between the Houston Texans and Cleveland Browns on Saturday, as Tirico and Collinsworth were on the call for the Peacock exclusive between the Kansas City Chiefs and Miami Dolphins. Again, no disrespect to Eagle and Blackledge, who earned plenty of praise for their call of Saturday’s game. But it’s hard to imagine the NFL was thrilled with having its first playoff matchup of the year called by broadcasters who are primarily associated with the college game.

Kelce, however, could change that, bringing new life to the Football Night in America studio show while also serving as a viable No. 2 analyst (and potential future successor) to Collinsworth. While that would obviously be a big starting point for a former player without any formal experience calling games, his experience in front of the camera — including on New Heights, where he serves as the show’s host — makes him more polished than most former players who venture into broadcasting following their playing days.

It’s also worth noting that NBC executives are clearly well aware of the star power of the Kelce brand, as Travis hosted Saturday Night Live last year, with Jason making a cameo in his brother’s monologue. Jason also seems to already have a strong relationship with the network, as he took part in a sit down interview with Football Night in America‘s Devin McCourty this past season.

While the 36-year-old Kelce has yet to formally announce his retirement — let alone express interest in joining a television network — the reality is that he’s a unicorn in the field. When it comes to players-turned-broadcasters, some have Hall of Fame credentials and others are naturals in front of the camera, but few have both — and that’s before factoring that Kelce’s celebrity already transcends football.

In fact, if there’s anything that might get in the way of Kelce joining a broadcast booth, it might be that he and Travis are big enough to do their own thing and could use the newfound free time to take New Heights to — well, new heights. Still, that shouldn’t stop the networks from courting Kelce and NBC should be at the front of the line.

About Ben Axelrod

Ben Axelrod is a veteran of the sports media landscape, having most recently worked for NBC's Cleveland affiliate, WKYC. Prior to his time in Cleveland, he covered Ohio State football and the Big Ten for outlets including Cox Media Group, Bleacher Report, Scout and Rivals.