Mike Francesa said on the air that his contract expires...

Mike Francesa said on the air that his contract expires shortly after the 2014 Super Bowl, and indicated that he will "have a decision to make." Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy

Mike Francesa is leaning toward leaving WFAN when his contract expires in March 2014, the station's longtime afternoon drive time host said Tuesday.

Speaking after a show on which he hinted on the air he was mulling his future, Francesa initially said it was "50-50, at best" that he would return, then added, "I'm even saying I'm leaning toward leaving."

Francesa has been at the station since shortly after its launch in 1987 and in the afternoon slot since 1989, the first 19 years with his longtime partner, Chris Russo.

He has been a ratings pillar for the station and has a contract believed to pay around $5 million per year. But he said it might soon be time for a change, although he has no plans to retire.

"When you've done the same thing every day for 25 years, having an idea of maybe a new venture or opportunity has some allure, there's no question," he told Newsday.

Francesa, 57, has three young children with whom he also would like to spend more time. "That's always a consideration," he said.

Might Francesa look for a similar job, perhaps at rival 1050 ESPN? "I would never do that," he said.

What about a reunion with Russo, now the afternoon host on Sirius XM Satellite Radio? "I would say there's a better chance that the Mets win the pennant," Francesa said.

His contract originally was to expire at the end of 2013, but by mutual agreement with CBS Radio it was extended so he would be on the job for Super Bowl XLVIII on Feb. 2, 2014, at MetLife Stadium.

"That could be an interesting backdrop if that was going to be it," he said. "It would be a fun way to leave if that's the end."

A decision about his future will have to be made before that to allow for a succession plan. He guessed he would have to inform the company around August 2013.

WFAN operations manager Mark Chernoff wrote in an email when informed of Francesa's comments, "We love Mike and hope he's here for a long time!"

Candidates to succeed him figure to include midday hosts Joe Benigno and Evan Roberts as well as Chris Carlin and Kimberly Jones, who have worked a number of fill-in shifts together, including morning shows last week, and former WFANer Gregg Giannotti, who currently is working in Pittsburgh.

Francesa stressed he has made no decision and does not plan to do so anytime before two summers from now.

"I'm leaning," he said. "I'm not here making any proclamations. I have a lot to think about . . . But I don't see me doing nothing. I don't think I'm cut out to do nothing. I just don't know what I see me doing."

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