Canadian CFL star Mathieu Betts signs with NFL’s Lions

B.C. Lions defensive lineman Mathieu Betts sits on the bench during the second half of a CFL football game against the Calgary Stampeders, in Vancouver, on Friday, October 20, 2023. Betts recorded his 18th sack of the season to set a new single-season sack record by a Canadian. (Darryl Dyck/CP)

Canadian Mathieu Betts, one of the CFL’s most coveted free agents, is returning to the NFL.

According to a league source, the CFL’s outstanding defensive player last season will sign a contract with the NFL’s Detroit Lions. The 28-year-old became a free agent in Canada at noon ET on Tuesday.

This will mark Betts’s second attempt at securing an NFL job. He signed with the Chicago Bears in 2019 as an undrafted free agent after being selected in the first round, third overall, in that year’s CFL draft by the Edmonton Elks.

Betts returned to Canada after being released by Chicago.

Betts had a stellar ’23 campaign in Canada with the B.C. Lions. He led the CFL in sacks with 18, setting a single-season record for Canadians.

The former Laval star appeared in all 18 of B.C.’s regular-season games, registering 44 tackles, three forced fumbles and a blocked kick.

The six-foot-three, 250-pound Betts is certainly betting upon himself in signing with Detroit. As one the top free agents in the CFL, he would have commanded a salary well north of $200,000 a year, especially considering the year he was coming off.

If he’s released by Detroit, he will return to the CFL after teams have started their ’24 schedule. As a free agent, Betts would have the latitude of signing with the Canadian team of his choice, but his contract here would be pro-rated and less than what he would’ve received this week.

And the CFL all-star is taking a calculated gamble joining a solid Lions team that reached the NFC championship game before losing a gut-wrenching 34-31 decision to the San Francisco 49ers.

Detroit’s defence boasts former first-round pick Aidan Hutchinson, who had 11.5 sacks in 2023. But the Lions only have one pass rusher under contract for next season, James Houston, who required surgery for an ankle injury that required a plate and four screws being put into the joint.

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

Betts had a decorated collegiate career, winning consecutive J.P. Metras Trophy honours (2017-18) as Canadian university football’s top-down lineman. He also helped Laval win two Vanier Cups during his tenure.

When submitting content, please abide by our submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.