Could ESPN be on the verge of losing another on-screen talent? Things could possibly be going that way.
According to the Sporting News, Stephen A. Smith has made a move to the CAA talent agency in order to seek a “Skip Bayless-like” deal with ESPN.
“There’s only one reason for Stephen A. to go to CAA, and that’s to renegotiate his deal,” said one source close to the situation. “He wants Skip Bayless money.”
Bayless left ESPN earlier this year, garnering $5.5 million annually and a $4 million signing bonus from FOX Sports.
Smith is reportedly making between $3.1-3.5 million from ESPN now, so getting that kind of raise would be quite the raise for ESPN to payout. However, Smith does have a trump card with this negotiation: will all the talent that has flocked from ESPN recently, Smith is arguably the most well-known pundit on the network. Smith has essentially become the face of the network, and the contract that Bayless got gives Smith a lot of leverage.
Where Smith doesn’t have leverage, though, is that ESPN has just been letting these guys go recently. Bayless and Colin Cowherd left for FOX Sports, Mike Tirico left for NBC, and Bill Simmons was fired. Of course, with Smith one of the few remaining “top” guys left for ESPN, they may not have the option to let Smith walk.