Sean Gilbert resurfaces

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Redskins fans whose memories date back at least 11 years haven’t forgotten the name Sean Gilbert. He was the stud defensive tackle for whom Washington gave the fourth pick in the 1996 draft to St. Louis. After getting all of three sacks during that 1996 campaign, Gilbert — angry at being franchised — hold out for the entire 1997 season, a year that finished with the Redskins missing the playoffs by half a game at 8-7-1 with the likes of Chris Zorich and William “The Big Nasty” Gaines playing in Gilbert’s place.

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(Sean Gilbert from Getty Images)

This is relevant to 2009 because the Albert Haynesworth signing summoned bad memories of Dana Stubblefield, who arrived in Washington as Gilbert’s replacement in 1998. The NFL Defensive Player of The Year for San Francisco in 1997 at age 27, Stubblefield was more like Stubblebum after he got the big money, producing just seven sacks in three years before being jettisoned.

Anyway, with Julius Peppers threatening to hold out after being franchised by Carolina, my buddy Darrin Gantt of The Rock Hill (S.C.) Herald tracked down Gilbert, whom the Panthers acquired from the Redskins for two first-round picks in 1998.

“It’s different from mine,” Gilbert said of Peppers’ situation. “He was tagged by a team that wants him.”

* Gilbert told Darrin that Jack Kent Cooke’s death in April 1997 ruined his chances of remaining a Redskin and said that the club never made a firm contract offer, choosing to issue statements to the media about its intentions that his agents, Gus and Sal Sunseri (whom Rick Snider and I called every day that summer in Frostburg but never received a return call) never saw in writing.

* Gilbert told Darrin that he saw himself as “a fighter for free agency,” and said that he didn’t agree with the mechanism of the franchise tag the way it’s come to be used, saying it’s punitive toward players who have fulfilled their contractual obligations.

I relayed Gilbert’s comments to Charley Casserly, the Redskins’ general manager at the time and now an analyst for CBS and the NFL Network.

“This is totally false to say that we never made him an offer,” Casserly told me. “At the very least the franchise tag is by NFL rule a one year contract offer. I do not remember the numbers, but I would go on record as saying we offered to make him the highest paid DT in football. We may not have put it in writing or we may have. Most of our contract negotiations were not in writing. Mr. Cooke’s death had nothing to do with his holdout. I think I knew how he would think better than Sean Gilbert would.”

- David Elfin

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About the Author
David Elfin

David Elfin

David Elfin has been following Washington-area sports teams since the late 1960s. David began his journalism career at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, the University of Pennsylvania (B.A., history) and Syracuse University (M.S., telecommunications). He wrote for the Bulletin (Philadelphia), the Post-Standard (Syracuse) and The Washington Post before coming to The Washington Times in 1986. He has covered colleges, the Orioles ...

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