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Gilbert, NFL’s lone holdout, gone for season

November 4, 1997

ASHBURN, Va. (AP) _ Sean Gilbert was supposed to anchor the Washington Redskins defensive line this year. Instead, the NFL’s lone holdout will sit out the entire the season.

The NFL’s free-agent signing deadline passed Tuesday with the Redskins unable to land Gilbert, who had sought $4.5 million for this year. The two sides were never remotely close to a deal.

His agent, Gus Sunseri, has said Gilbert had received a ``revelation from God″ concerning what his contract should be worth.

``We have been told (he would not be here) for a number of months, so this does not come as a surprise to us,″ general manager Charley Casserly said Tuesday.

In desperate need of help on the defensive line, the Redskins had kept the lines of communication open until the last minute. Casserly, who last spoke with Gilbert about a month ago, called Gilbert’s house Friday night in hopes of working something out. Gilbert never returned the call.

League rules mandate that he now sit out the season.

``I don’t really understand everything,″ said defensive tackle Marc Boutte, Gilbert’s closest friend on the team. ``I know we’d like to have him. He’s our big guy.″

The Redskins gave up their first-round pick (No. 6 overall) shortly before the 1996 draft to acquire Gilbert from the St. Louis Rams. Even then, the Redskins knew they might have trouble keeping him because he was about to enter the last year of his contract.

The Redskins made Gilbert several offers for a new deal throughout 1996, but negotiations went nowhere. When no agreement was reached, the Redskins prevented Gilbert from becoming a free agent by declaring him their franchise player, a move that angered Gilbert because it kept him from testing the open market.

As a franchise player, Gilbert was entitled to the average of the top five salaries among defensive tackles in the league, or $2.977 million. The Redskins offered more: a five-year deal that averaged $3.6 million per year and included a $5 million signing bonus.

Gilbert responded by packing his belongings and going home to Aliquippa, Pa. He hasn’t spoken a word in public since.

At that time, it was $5 million per year. Later it came down to $4.5 million. The Redskins, noting that Gilbert had only three sacks last year for a defense that ranked 29th against the run, called that figure ``nonnegotiable″ but indicated a willingness to go as high as $4 million.

Sunseri was not available for comment Tuesday.

``I’m not going to try to analyze what his motivations are,″ Casserly said, ``other than he asked for a certain amount of money and we didn’t feel that was an appropriate sum.″

The good news for Casserly is that now he has an extra $2.98 million to spend on salaries this year. He will do that by renegotiating some current players’ contracts to create extra cap room.

And what about Gilbert? The Redskins are not about to let him off the hook. They can keep designating him their franchise player indefinitely until he signs.

``We’re going to franchise him again next year,″ Casserly said.

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