After finishing the 2010 season dead last in pass defense, the Texans have bolstered their secondary with a pair of veterans, CB Jonathan Joseph and S Danieal Manning, both of whom should start from Day One.
Joseph, who spent his first five seasons in Cincinnati, reportedly received a five-year deal worth $48.75 million, with $23.5 million guaranteed.
Manning, who is also entering his sixth season after spending his first five with the Bears, reportedly signed a four-year, $20 million contract, including $9 million guaranteed.
The Texans were thought to be one of the teams in hot pursuit of free-agent CB Nnamdi Asomugha. But with Asomugha in contention to command upwards of $15 million annually, Houston elected to go with the cheaper Joseph, which allowed it to also sign Manning.
The PFW spin
These are two excellent signings by the Texans that address the club's two greatest needs. If Houston was one player away, I could see spending the extra cash on Asomugha. But because the club was looking to add two veteran starters in the secondary, first pulling the trigger on Joseph, who is nearly four years younger than Asomugha and an outstanding cornerback in his own right, makes a ton of sense.
Joseph will be a tremendous asset for new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, who now can feel more comfortable dialing up the pressure with a big, fast cornerback who can match up against the opposition's No. 1 wideout in both man and zone coverage.
With one of the youngest defensive backfields in football, Joseph also becomes a mentor for the unit. Shortly after agreeing to terms with the Texans last night, Joseph told Houston Chronicle reporter and PFW correspondent John McClain, "I can't wait to get to Houston and be a leader in a young secondary."
The Texans will need all the help they can get trying to get the most out of 2010 first-rounder Kareem Jackson, who struggled mightily as a rookie but never lost confidence. The club's two rookie corners, Brandon Harris and Roc Carmichael, will also be beneficiaries of having a respected veteran like Joseph as a resource.
I have talked with some folks close to the team who felt the Texans made a mistake by allowing now Falcons CB Dunta Robinson to escape before last season. There is no question he was sorely missed in 2010, but signing Joseph, who is a better all-around player and two years younger than Robinson, should make Robinson an afterthought.
In the case of Manning, who I watched extensively during his time in Chicago, the name of the game for the Texans will be keeping things simple. Manning is a terrific physical athlete, possessing good range and coverage skills to go along with his solid tackling ability and willingness to put his hat on ball carriers. But his football IQ is questionable, with the speedy safety often appearing to be out of position in the past. The good news is that Phillips, whose defense isn't known for being too complex, has a knack for playing to his players' strengths. I expect him to get the most out of Manning and cornerback-turned-safety Glover Quin, who the club thinks has Pro Bowl potential. Phillips has preached the importance of having "twin safeties," meaning two guys who can cover and be physical. On paper at least, he's got them.
And let's not forget about Manning's dynamic return skills. I recently spoke to one league observer who said Manning is the best kick returner he has ever seen. He was quick to point out that former teammate Devin Hester, who is widely regarded as the best returnman in the history of the league, was included in that statement. With RB Steve Slaton likely to be traded before the season, and WR Jacoby Jones more apt at returning punts, Manning likely will be the Texans' kick returner in Week One.
It has been a very productive week for the Texans as far as accomplishing their goals. They have addressed their two greatest needs, in addition to re-signing three of their own top unrestricted free agents. The one remaining challenge facing the Texans is finding a way to retain All-Pro FB Vonta Leach, who wants to be the highest-paid fullback in football. If the Texans can somehow free up the cap space to make that happen, they will be in excellent shape to start training camp on Sunday.