Tight end Shannon Sharpe is leaving the Denver Broncos to join CBS as Deion Sanders's replacement on the network's NFL studio show. Sharpe, 35, announced last month that he would return to the Broncos for a 13th season with the team and a 15th season in the NFL. But he reconsidered when Sanders left CBS last week in a salary dispute.

"Shannon had to take this job,'' Broncos owner Pat Bowlen said in a telephone interview yesterday. "Those don't come along very often. I'm happy for him. I'm not happy that he's not playing, but I'm happy he got this opportunity because he'll be great at it. I understood his decision and I wished him the best.''

Sharpe joins Jim Nantz, Dan Marino and Boomer Esiason on the CBS set. He probably would have been the leading candidate to replace Marino when the former quarterback accepted a job in the Miami Dolphins' front office earlier in the offseason. But Marino backed out of that job, and Sharpe was set to play another season until Sanders left CBS when it balked at his demand to reportedly double his $1 million annual salary.

-- Mark Maske

SHARPE