By Richard Deitsch
July 11, 2012

Professional athletes are not alone in getting long-term extensions.

ESPN will announce later today that four key members of the network's NFL coverage -- John Clayton, Mel Kiper Jr., Adam Schefter and Ed Werder -- have signed multi-year extensions with the company.

For those who enjoy Kiper Jr. on the NFL Draft, the following will be good news: Kiper Jr. signed a six-year deal that will keep him at ESPN through the summer of 2018. Schefter signed a five-year extension that runs through the summer of 2017. Clayton and Werder each signed four-year extensions.

Why did ESPN lock up this quartet of NFL talent? "The NFL is 12 months a year and our fans cannot get enough news and information," said Mark Gross, an ESPN senior vice president and executive producer.

Kiper is in his fourth decade with ESPN. He started with the company in 1984 and will continue to appear on the network's draft coverage as well as pre-draft specials, and contribute to "Nobody personifies the NFL draft like Mel Kiper," Gross said. "He's incredibly well-respected by viewers and teams."

Schefter joined ESPN in August 2009 and his role will remain the same with appearances across the platforms, including Sunday NFL Countdown, Monday Night Countdown, SportsCenter, NFL Live. He'll also contribute to and ESPN Radio. "This guy has changed the way NFL is reported in my opinion," Gross said. "To me, he is one of the more impact guys at the company."

Werder, who has served as ESPN's Dallas-based bureau reporter since September 1998, will have his role expanded throughout ESPN's platforms including more appearances on SportsCenter, Sunday NFL Countdown, and Monday Night Countdown. Gross said Werder will now perform the dual role of reporter and league insider. "You won't just be hearing him on the Cowboys," Gross said. "You'll be hearing him on the Jets, Packers, Saints and so on. He's got a lot of contacts and he's a well respected guy."

Clayton joined ESPN in August 1995 as a senior NFL writer and commentator and will continue to appear across multiple platforms including

Asked if any of the talent were close to leaving ESPN, Gross said, "They could have been talking to other people, but our focus was let's just worry about ourselves and let's get these guys locked up...Let's make it a no-brainer for them to stay at ESPN for multiple years."

The extensions provide ESPN with a nice wave of publicity after a number of recent high-profile television side defections including Erin Andrews (Fox), Michelle Beadle (NBC), and Jim Rome (CBS).

As reported by multiple outlets on Monday, ESPN also signed longtime SportsCenter anchor Stuart Scott to a contract extension.

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