By: Joe Pohoryles
I recently evaluated the longest- and shortest-tenured players for each DC sports team, and in a similar fashion, I will begin looking at a middle ground of sorts: the best one-year wonders for each team.
A one-year wonder in a sports context can be defined as a player who only had one good season in their entire career, such as Peyton Hillis, who totaled 1,647 scrimmage yards and 13 total touchdowns as a running back for the Cleveland Browns in 2010, and was featured on the cover of the Madden 12 video game for the following season, then never eclipsed 600 rushing yards or three touchdowns for the remaining four years of his career.
On a franchise scale, it can be defined as a player who starred in his lone season with the team. For this series, we will be going by the latter definition. For all four DC teams, players have come and gone after one season, most not making any notable impact, but a select few turning in star-level performances. In this series, we will be looking at the players who made the most of their limited time in DC, continuing with the Redskins.
Sean Gilbert (Defensive Tackle, 1996)
Gilbert was the third overall pick to the Los Angeles Rams in 1992, where he spent the first four years of his career, earning one Pro Bowl appearance before the Redskins traded their sixth overall pick in 1996 for his services. The Rams ended up taking troubled running back Lawrence Phillips with the pick.
Gilbert, meanwhile, started all 16 games of the 1996 season, totaling 68 total tackles (sixth-most on the team) and three sacks (fourth-most). His production earned him a Pro Bowl alternate selection, and the Redskins valued Gilbert enough to give him the franchise tag for the 1997 season.
Wanting a long-term deal instead, Gilbert held out in hopes of earning a larger deal. The Redskins wouldn’t bite, and so Gilbert sat out the entire 1997 season. The Redskins gave him the franchise tag again in 1998, but this time Gilbert sought out an arbitrator.
Eventually, the Redskins offered a Gilbert a multi-year deal averaging $4 million per year, but Gilbert refused, wanting at least $4.5 million per year. Soon the Carolina Panthers stepped in with a seven-year/$46.5 million offer sheet that the Redskins were given a week to match. No counter was made, and Gilbert became the highest-paid defensive player in the league. The Redskins received two first-rounders as compensation, but Gilbert’s Washington career ultimately ended with just one season played.
One of those first-rounders was the fifth overall pick in 1999, which was traded to the New Orleans Saints for eight draft picks. The Saints took Ricky Williams, and while the Redskins would trade most of those picks to other teams, the deal ended up netting them LaVar Arrington with the second overall pick in 2000.
Gilbert spent the next five seasons in Carolina, putting up modest numbers before spending the final season of his career with the Oakland Raiders in 2003, appearing in just six games and garnering merely seven total tackles.
A talented enough player to earn one of the league’s largest contracts after sitting out a full season, Gilbert was always a force on the defensive line; the timing just didn’t work out, and that was probably for the best. The Gilbert saga of course came before Dan Snyder was owner, otherwise the team likely would have matched or exceeded the offer sheet, and we would have never landed Arrington.
His time in Washington was short-lived, but Gilbert’s departure ended up netting the team plenty of value, and he can still lay claim to being the best single-season Redskin in franchise history.