Through the first four weeks of the 2021 NFL season, teams have combined for nearly 300 sacks, a higher total than in 2020 but lower than many other recent seasons. Though most NFL teams throw it on the majority of their offensive plays, racking up sacks on the other side of the ball can be difficult.
When a defensive player develops a reputation for getting to the quarterback, offenses will do whatever they can to slow that player down — double teams, bootlegs, quick passes, or just running to the other side. Yet throughout NFL history, a select few players have been able to bring down the QB over 100 times throughout their career.
To determine the NFL’s all-time sack leaders, 24/7 Tempo reviewed data from Pro Football Reference. Sacks were not an official NFL statistic until 1982. All sack statistics from before that season are therefore considered unofficial and were compiled by independent researchers for the 1960-1981 seasons.
The list of all-time sack leaders is dominated by retired players, many of whom have been inducted into the Hall of Fame. Only one player among the top 50 career sack leaders is playing during the 2021 season, though a handful of pass rushers are just outside the top 50 and seem likely to make the list by the end of the season.
With NFL teams relying on their passing game to carry their offense more and more, they have also stocked up on pass rushers on the other side of the ball. In the 2021 season, 13 teams are paying their defensive line more than any other position group — no other position group ranks as the highest paid on more than six teams. These are the NFL teams paying their players the most.