One sack away from 13th all-time, Jared Allen reflects on his career
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. - Jared Allen has a list of the all-time sack leaders hanging in his locker.
But he doesn't need to look at it again to know that he's one sack away from overtaking Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Derrick Thomas for 13th all-time in NFL career sacks. With 126, Allen currently trails Thomas by a 0.5 sack.
"Passing Derrick Thomas means everything," Allen said. "When I came into the league, when I got to Kansas City, he was obviously the iconic player at that time. His reputation as a legend kind of spoke for itself for what he did on the field."
In the final year of his contract, Allen and his teammates have begun talking about his last ride. Defensive end Brian Robison made a quip in the locker room following Sunday's win over the Philadelphia Eagles when he noted "I know [Allen] wants to go out on top," meaning with the most sacks this season.
Allen and Robison both currently sit with nine sacks apiece as they've hit their stride toward the final two games of the season. The 31-year-old Allen has four sacks in the last three games, while the 30-year-old Robison has taken down the quarterback six times in the last five games.
"Well, [Robison] keeps getting sacks so I've got to match him," Allen said. "He's getting better and better, and like I've said all along, he has great potential. He really does. He can be a 15-sack guy. He plays the front side so sometimes what could be a sack, they can actually see."
Robison, Allen, defensive end Everson Griffen and defensive tackles Fred Evans and Kevin Williams all entered this season without ink on future deals. The Vikings extended Robison first with a four-year, $28 million deal in October and haven't made any moves yet with the remaining group.
At $17 million, Allen is the Vikings' highest-paid player this season and could be hard pressed to continue that salary, which is deposited in the final year of a lucrative contract that sent him from the Chiefs to the Vikings in 2008.
As one example of an aging pass rusher, 33-year-old Dwight Freeney met a lukewarm market this offseason and ultimately settled on an incentive-laden deal with the San Diego Chargers when he signed on for two years and nearly $9 million. Freeney is currently tied for 21st on the all-time sack list with 108.
While Allen has certainly fallen off a bit with age, he's just two seasons removed from a 22-sack season and less than a year removed from two offseason surgeries -- one on his knee and one to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder that he played through in 2012.
Only Dallas Cowboys linebacker DeMarcus Ware (13) has more sacks per season than Allen (12.6) of any current player with at least 50 career sacks.
"I think I reflect back on more of the ones that I missed like, 'damn it, I could be up there,'" Allen said.
With just two guaranteed Vikings games left, the calf-roping sack master has his eyes on moving up one more rung on the all-time sack ladder. Allen, the former Chiefs defensive end, will have to displace an Arrowhead legend to do so.
"I knew if I wanted to be relevant in the talk of the best at what I do, I had to be at least up with [Thomas'] numbers. I always tried to keep pace with him and what he's tried to do," Allen said. "To have an opportunity to pass him and to have an opportunity to do it one year sooner than he did is awesome."
"It's kind of surreal at times, but again it's just one of those goals you try to reach for and then you have to set something else."