ESPN’s signature NFL pregame show — Sunday NFL Countdown — will be changing next September.
SI.com has learned that Keyshawn Johnson will not be returning to ESPN following the conclusion of his contract, which ends at the end of this NFL season. Johnson joined ESPN in 2007 as an NFL studio analyst on the same day he announced his retirement from the National Football League. He had appeared on various ESPN and ESPN Radio programs over the years including ESPN’s highest profile NFL studio show. The network opted not to renew his contract.
As an NFL player, Johnson was the No. 1 overall pick (by the Jets) in the 1996 draft and played 11 seasons for teams. He won a Super Bowl in 2002. Given his Los Angeles ties, Johnson could be a candidate for the NFL Network or Fox Sports.
Johnson leaving Countdown could be the first of a series of moves for the show over the next 24 months. The contracts of Chris Berman and analyst Mike Ditka are believed to expire after the 2016 NFL season.
As for who will replace Johnson, ESPN has a lot of quality NFL voices amid its roster (Louis Riddick and Ryan Clark have been very strong, in particular) and there are always high-profile players who retire (such as Charles Woodson) and coaches (such as Lovie Smith) who become available.