McFarland was a field-level analyst for most of last season before moving upstairs for the final two games. Jason Witten lasted only one season after deciding in February to end his retirement and rejoin the Dallas Cowboys.
Network officials reached out to Peyton Manning, with whom ESPN Executive Vice President Stephanie Druley said they had informal discussions.
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ESPN had a three-man commentary team last year and struggled at times as Witten tried to make the transition to broadcasting. The ratings did not suffer, though; they were up 8% from 2017.
The network also announced Wednesday that Lisa Salters signed a multiyear contract and will return for her eighth season as the sideline reporter.