Detroit Lions sign CFL’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player, Canadian DL Mathieu Betts

Courtesy: Paul Yates/B.C. Lions

The Detroit Lions have signed the Canadian Football League’s reigning Most Outstanding Defensive Player, Mathieu Betts, per sources.

Because the Lions couldn’t sign him until today, it will technically be a free-agent signing instead of a reserve/future contract since the Super Bowl has passed but in effect it’s the same type of agreement.

Betts worked out for Detroit on December 19, his first of three NFL workouts in that month, the others were with the Cleveland Browns and Buffalo Bills. There was one other team to offer him a contract.

The Lions have been in contact with his Montreal-based agent Sasha Ghavami since his workout in Detroit in December. There was a contract offer on the table since early January. The Lions have a history of undrafted free agents earning their way onto the roster.

The 28-year-old produced the best year of his career in 2023 with the B.C. Lions: 42 defensive tackles, 18 sacks and four forced fumbles over 18 regular season games. He broke Brett Johnson’s CFL record for single-season sacks by a Canadian player and earned three-down league all-star status for the first time. His most impressive stat: 95 QB pressures.

The Montreal native won two Vanier Cups while at Laval University and earned the J.P. Metras Trophy for three consecutive years from 2016-2018 as the best lineman in U Sports, becoming the first player ever to accomplish that feat.

After attending the East-West Shrine Bowl in January 2019, five NFL teams, the New York Jets, Pittsburgh Steelers, Chicago Bears, Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers, travelled to Quebec City for his pro day on March 11, 2019.

The six-foot-three, 250-pound defensive lineman signed with the Chicago Bears in April 2019 as an undrafted free agent but he was released by the team at the end of training camp. He was selected in the first round, third overall by the Edmonton Elks during the 2019 CFL Draft.

Through 55 CFL games, Betts has made 81 tackles, 27 sacks, five forced fumbles and four special teams tackles.

The B.C. Lions and Hamilton Tiger-Cats had lucrative offers — around $300,000 — on the table for Betts who could have become the CFL’s highest-paid defensive player. However, he wants to take his NFL shot while it’s available.

2022 second-overall NFL Draft pick, Aidan Hutchinson led Detroit d-linemen with 51 tackles and 11.5 sacks last season. The only other pass rusher currently under contract with the Lions for the 2024 NFL season is James Houston. He played in two games last season, suffering a broken ankle in Week 2.

The Lions will undoubtedly aim to bolster that position, but Betts has a real chance to compete for a roster spot under head coach Dan Campbell in the Motor City.

Justin Dunk is a football insider, sports reporter and anchor.