January 10, 2024

FA Most Wanted: A record-breaking defensive lineman

Jimmy Jeong/CFL.ca

TORONTO — Mathieu Betts is as valuable a player as they come.

The BC Lions defensive lineman set a new record for sacks by a National Player with 18 this last season and could become a free agent in February if he doesn’t sign an extension with the team.

Every club would benefit from adding the 2023 Most Outstanding Defensive Player to their defence should he decide to test the open market, as getting to the quarterback is one of the most impactful skills a defender can have.

The Montreal native was already a force in 2022 after tallying seven sacks in his first year in BC, but took his game to a new level last season, finishing with the highest pass-rushing grade (90.3) according to Pro Football Focus.

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Betts had the highest win percentage in true pass rushing sets while finishing second in pressure percentage, meaning he was winning his matchups against opposing offensive linemen more often than anyone else around the league while impacting opposing quarterbacks in every game.

That’s as valuable as it gets when we’re talking about the defensive side of the ball, which is why plenty of teams will be looking to add the 28-year-old to their roster. The Lions themselves are the number one destination as they attempt to retain the core of the defensive front hat finished second in sacks in 2023 with 55, having already extended defensive lineman Sione Teuhema.

If Betts ends up playing for another team, an intriguing destination would be his hometown Montreal Alouettes. The Als defence played as well any other unit over the second half of the season and could have Betts lining up opposite to star pass rusher Shawn Lemon, essentially creating one of the best one-two punches at the position across the league. Despite the defensive success, Montreal finished with 41 sacks in 2023, only four more than the last-place Saskatchewan Roughriders with 37.

The Riders would also make for an interesting destination for Betts, especially with the arrival of the new head coach Corey Mace. The former Argonauts defensive coordinator led a unit that finished first in sacks in 2022 with 68 and knows very well the value a dominant pass rushing can add. Saskatchewan will also have to make a decision on top pass rushers Anthony Lanier II, Micah Johnson and Peter Robertson, who are all scheduled to become free agents in February.

Whether Betts remains as a Lion or signs with another team as a free agent, one thing is for sure: the 2023 Most Outstanding Defensive Player will make an impact wherever he goes.

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