Most Fascinating Player the Bears Signed Isn’t Even a U.S. Citizen

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The Chicago Bears added 24 rookie bodies to their roster by the end of business on April 27th. That included five draft picks and 19 undrafted free agents. A personal high for GM Ryan Pace. There were plenty of popular names in that mix from wide receiver Emanuel Hall to tight end Dax Raymond. Yet the one that is easily the most interesting? Mathieu Betts.

Oh, haven’t heard of him? Don’t feel bad. A lot of people haven’t. In fact, most people who can call themselves American haven’t. That’s because Betts isn’t from this country. He is Canadian, a native of Montreal hailing from Laval College.

It isn’t unprecedented for the Bears to bring players down from Canada. However, few of them are actually native of the country itself. Akiem Hicks went to school there but he was born in California. Israel Idonije as well but he came from Nigeria. Betts is full-blooded Quebecois.

The most notable Canadian in Bears history? Bronco Nagurski himself. So that makes this story interesting by itself. So what makes this kid any different from the other free agents the Bears signed?

Mathieu Betts is an intriguing pass rusher for the Bears defense

Pace wasn’t able to meet every demand of his roster in the draft. Not with only five picks. One position that wasn’t addressed was outside linebacker. Not ideal given the questionable depth in that area behind Khalil Mack and Leonard Floyd. So the Bears attacked it on the undrafted market, and Betts is easily the most interesting of the bunch.

He finished his college career with 35.5 sacks. He was the winner of three-straight Down Lineman of the Year trophies for Canadian college football, helped his team win two Vanier Cups (national championships), and was named the best available prospect in the 2019 CFL draft.

Yet rather than stay in his native country, Betts decided to chart a course to the NFL. This came via an invititation to the East-West Shrine Game. Basically a college all-star game. He was one of just two Canadian players invited. By all accounts? He didn’t disappoint.

Trevor Sikkema of The Draft Network and Tony Pauline of Draft Analyst were both on hand to watch him, and both were shocked at how much he stood out.

Sikkema: “Betts, a product of Laval in Canada, has been embarrassing the East roster’s offensive linemen for two straight days, and showed some seriously nice pass rush moves today.”

Pauline: “Canada’s finest was on display at the Shrine practices as Betts, who played college ball for Laval University in Quebec City, turned heads every day. He displayed unbelievable quickness with an incredible first step off the snap. Offensive tackles who had a significant size advantage over the Canadian found him difficult to block.”

He certainly flashes in practice. Even so, that only goes so far. Does the same dynamic play show up in games? Yes. Yes it does. Quite often as it turns out.

Betts has a host of different moves at his disposal.

This is surprising for a younger player. He can bend the edge using his speed using his shoulder to dip under the tackle. Then he’ll stutter step to the outside before using a violent hand slap to cut back inside. Then he’ll lean in his shoulder and pull off a rapid spin move. Last but not least, he will thin out his frame and slice through an inside gap on a blitz.

Watching him, people will get visions former Packers linebacker Clay Matthews. He’s not the type to win with power, but he more than makes up for it with speed, quickness, and versatility. If he’s ever able to add some sort of power move to his arsenal? He could be something to watch.

The Bears have never had an undrafted pass rusher who amounted to much in the NFL. Betts has a serious chance to break that streak.