Michael Kay
Mitch Stringer | USA TODAY Sports

Michael Kay cited “unfinished business” as a motivation to eschew retirement and re-sign with ESPN Radio New York. But you have to think the money helped move things along too.

Kay will cash in after deciding to remain the station’s afternoon drive anchor. ESPN has given him a new multi-year deal with an annual seven-figure salary, according to The Post.

It is a big payday for a guy who is getting trounced in the ratings by WFAN’s Craig Carton and Evan Roberts. But it may have been a necessity for ESPN and its owner, Good Karma Brands. And it likely makes business sense for the station.

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Kay admitted Thursday he was initially planning to retire from radio after 21 years when his contract expired in September before reconsidering. Even if he would have eventually changed his mind regardless, a lucrative new deal certainly would not hurt.  And ESPN likely figured a possible overpay was worth it to keep Kay in the power chair.

The ratings situation is what it is. Kay’s head-to-head win over Carton and Roberts in the Fall 2021 book is a distant memory. And he and co-hosts Don La Greca and Peter Rosenberg seem hopelessly behind WFAN at this point (Carton and Roberts had a 7.7 share in the males ages 25-54 demographic in January while ESPN was at 3.1). But things could always be worse.

Kay is a proven commodity on-air and with sponsors. Any of his realistic potential replacements would not have been. Yes, Christopher “Mad Dog” Russo would have changed everything overnight. But ESPN was never going to lure him from Sirius XM. After that, there would have been risk with any other option. Kay may have a low ceiling at this point, but he also has a high floor. And that is likely more than good enough for ESPN at this time.

James Kratch can be reached at james.kratch@xlmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @jameskratch.

James Kratch is the managing editor of ESNY. He previously worked as a Rutgers and Giants (and Mike Francesa) beat reporter for NJ Advance Media.