Jim Nantz, the face of CBS Sports, is looking for “Tony Romo money” in what is shaping into a potential showdown between the network and its longtime star, The Post has learned.
Sources said Nantz is seeking to top the $17.5 million yearly salary Romo signed right before the pandemic hit as everything perfectly aligned for the standout NFL analyst.
While Romo just works the football season, Nantz calls the NFL, the Final Four and golf, including the Masters.
He has been out front for CBS for three decades. He currently makes $6.5 million per year on a contract that ends early next summer, according to sources.
“In the last 30 years, Jim Nantz has become the face and voice of CBS Sports,” Nantz’s agent Sandy Montag told The Post.
“The network has become synonymous with his voice and his leadership.”
Nantz, 61, recently stated he wanted to call the Masters, an event he coined “a tradition unlike any other,” well past his previously stated goal of 2035, when he will turn 76. The tournament has signed one-year contracts with CBS since 1956.
Nantz is protective of his relationship with Romo. Last Sunday, with Nantz working the rescheduled Masters, Romo, at nearly a million bucks per game, was given the week off.
Nantz, according to sources, pushed for Romo to be sidelined instead of working with Ian Eagle or another partner. Ultimately, CBS Sports executives made the final decision on Romo being absent Sunday, feeling it was easier to have the whole first team not work instead of reconfiguring its broadcast pairings. When Joe Buck calls the baseball’s playoffs, Fox has Troy Aikman team with other play-by-play partners.
CBS declined comment on negotiations with Nantz. In a statement about Romo’s off day, though, the network said along with Nantz, lead NFL game producer Jim Rikhoff, director Mike Arnold and other production personnel worked the Masters on Sunday.
“To avoid a complete domino effect and keep our other crews intact, we gave the rest of the lead crew the week off,” said a CBS spokeswoman. “It’s as simple as that.”
Whatever Nantz ends up making, he is in line for a raise. The going rate for the lead network sports voices is in the $10 million range. Joe Buck makes $10.5 million at Fox, according to sources, while NBC’s Mike Tirico is near that number, as well.
Romo’s perfect confluence of events included CBS not having a viable replacement and the former Cowboys quarterback getting a $14 million-per-year offer from ESPN. CBS tried to audible for Peyton Manning in the middle of the Romo negotiation. After the Manning attempt failed, Romo signed the largest sports TV analyst contract in history.
CBS, according to sources, views Romo’s contract as an aberration, not a benchmark.
Eagle, CBS’ No. 2 play-by-player on the NFL and college basketball, is viewed as someone who could call the Super Bowl and/or the Final Four. Eagle’s contract, like Nantz’s, is also up soon. Andrew Catalon, who sits behind Nantz on golf, is on the rise, but not at Eagle’s level at this point.
Looming over the Nantz and Eagle contract talks is Disney/ABC/ESPN’s aggressiveness in the next NFL TV deal negotiations. As The Post previously reported, new contracts are expected to be completed before the end of year. Disney very likely could end up with a Super Bowl and potentially two packages.
Its current top NFL team is Steve Levy, Brian Griese and Louis Riddick, with the trio in their first year on “Monday Night Football.” ESPN has been unable to produce a broadcast booth at the level of the other networks in recent years.
While Nantz and Eagle are in negotiations, one name that is off the free agency board is Kevin Burkhart. Burkhardt just agreed to an extension with Fox, according to sources. He is the host of Fox’s World Series coverage and their No. 2 NFL play-by-player.
Levy has some internal competition at ESPN. In a recent article in The Athletic, Chris Fowler, ESPN’s lead college football play-by-player, openly talked about taking the NFL job without regard for his teammates, Levy and company. Fowler also simultaneously said his college gig might be better than working the NFL.
Either way, even though Fowler does the national championship, he is not at the level of Nantz or Eagle on football and is propped up by Kirk Herbstreit’s excellence. (Herbstreit has also been out of line talking publicly about the MNF job as if there isn’t a trio trying to keep the gig.)
At CBS, executives credited Nantz in being instrumental in Romo’s success. After Nantz struggled with Phil Simms, Nantz helped recruit Romo to CBS four years ago and trained him during exhibition sessions before his rookie year.
Romo rocketed to stardom, going from a three-year, $10 million rookie TV contract to a 10-year, $180 million deal when all perks are added in. Romo’s salary is $17.5M per season.
A breakup between Nantz and CBS seems unthinkable, but a showdown seems certain. While Nantz has been the face of CBS for three decades, he sits next to an analyst that his network assigned nearly three times the value.
They all may be longtime friends, but this is business.
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