Lions Add 2023 CFL Most Outstanding Defensive Player

Dan Campbell Mathieu Betts

Getty Head coach Dan Campbell and the Detroit Lions announced signing 2023 CFL Most Outstanding Defensive Player Mathieu Betts.

The Detroit Lions are adding talent from north of the border. The team announced on its official X (formerly Twitter) account on February 13 that they have signed defensive lineman Mathieu Betts.

Betts won the Canadian Football League’s award for Most Outstanding Defensive Player for the 2023 season.

The defensive lineman, who will turn 29 in March, has played the past five years for the Edmonton Eskimos and BC Lions in the CFL. He also spent training camp with the Chicago Bears in 2019.

During the 2023 season, Betts had 42 tackles, 18 sacks and 4 forced fumbles in 18 games. He also had 95 quarterback pressures.

Lions Sign CFL’s Mathieu Betts

This will be Betts’ second shot at making an NFL team.

Five teams, including the Bears, attended his pro day at Laval University. That was after Betts attended the East-West Shrine Bowl in January 2019.

The Bears signed Betts after he went undrafted. However, the team released him at the end of the 2019 training camp.

Joining the CFL after his release, Betts went third overall in the 2019 CFL draft.

3 Down Nation’s Justin Dunk reported that Betts had offers to become one of the highest-paid defensive players in the CFL this offseason. But he wanted another chance at playing in the NFL.

In 55 CFL games, Betts has posted 81 tackles, 27 sacks and 5 forced fumbles.

How Betts Could Contribute to 2024 Lions

Detroit’s biggest need entering the offseason is at cornerback. The Lions were ranked 27th in passing yards allowed and 29th in net yards per pass attempt last season.

But the team’s pass rush played a role in that poor pass defense. While the Lions were first in analytical statistics such as pressure rate and hurry percentage, they were tied for 23rd with 41 sacks.

The Lions could really use another potential star edge rusher to play opposite Aidan Hutchinson. In his second season, Hutchinson led the Lions with 11.5 sacks.

But with 5 sacks, defensive tackle Alim McNeill was Detroit’s only other defender with more than 3 sacks.

Going from the CFL to the NFL is a big jump. So, in all likelihood, Betts is not going to start opposite Hutchinson.

But the strength of Detroit’s pass rush in 2023 was its depth. The Lions had 18 defenders record at least 1 sack last season.

Veteran defensive ends Charles Harris and Romeo Okwara are set to be free agents this offseason as is outside linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin. Adding Betts gives the Lions another option along the edge if one or more of those free agents do not return.

With the addition of Betts, the Lions have five edge rushers under contract for the 2024 season according to Spotrac. In addition to Betts and Hutchinson, the Lions have John Cominsky, Josh Paschal and Derrick Barnes signed for next fall.

James Houston is technically not signed, but he is an exclusive rights free agent this offseason. In all likelihood, he will be on the Lions 2024 roster too.

Big things were expected of Houston entering the 2023 season, but he suffered a leg injury in Week 2 that sidelined him until the NFC championship game.

If Betts impresses during training camp and the preseason, perhaps he can develop into a rotational player to support Hutchinson and Houston in Detroit’s pass rush.

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