New ESPN NFL analyst Troy Aikman opens up on 'perplexing' move from Fox Sports

Just like play-by-play announcer Joe Buck doesn't know why Fox Sports let him walk out of his contract to join ESPN as the new voice of 'Monday Night Football' on ESPN, analyst Troy Aikman — Buck's long-time partner — isn't sure either.

Aikman was the first domino to fall after reports emerged late last month that Aikman, whose contract with Fox had recently expired, would be leaving the network to join ESPN as the lead analyst for 'Monday Night Football' broadcasts.

“I don’t know the answer to that," Aikman said in an episode of the Sports Illustrated Media Podcast that published Monday. "I don’t know that I ever will get the answer to that one. I think through it all, it’s a business. Fox is welcome to do whatever it is they feel is in their best interest as I am, as everybody is, so there’s no hard feelings about anything. I had a great 21 years at Fox. I guess what’s perplexing to me is that I had no conversation with my boss (Fox Sports president Eric Shanks) until he called me to congratulate me on my contract with ESPN.”

Troy Aikman is reportedly close to a deal with ESPN that would make him the lead analyst for "Monday Night Football."

ESPN officially announced the hirings of Buck and Aikman Wednesday.

After the Aikman reports about the move to ESPN surfaced, Aikman said he would welcome the chance to work with Buck again at some point in the future, when Buck was still employed by Fox.

The No. 1 overall pick in the 1989 NFL draft, Aikman joined Fox in 2001 following a 12-year playing career that saw him win three Super Bowls and the Super Bowl 27 MVP with the Dallas Cowboys. 

Though he's not certain for Fox's reasons to let the Buck-Aikman pairing walk to one of its competitors, Aikman guessed it had to do with money and the increasing salaries of NFL broadcast talent across different networks.

“Yeah, I think it was," Aikman said when asked if he thought finances had to play in Fox's decision. "I sense that it was. There was no reason for me to believe Fox was unhappy with anything I had done, my work. I think they were happy with Joe and I. Again, I’m merely speculating because I was never told, but I’m guessing it was an opportunity for Fox to hit the reset button on the No. 1 booth.”

Similarly, Buck told Sports Illustrated on Friday that Fox has "their reasons" for making the moves, but that he hadn't been told.

While at Fox, Buck and Aikman worked together as the lead broadcast since the 2002 season and called six Super Bowls in that span. At ESPN, Buck and Aikman are expected to call 18 of the 22 NFL games the network will have in the 2022 season.

Contributing: Jace Evans