NFL Nation: Joseph to Texans

The Houston Texans have a new lead defensive back. According to John McClain, when they couldn’t lock up the biggest prize in free agency, they decided they couldn’t lose out on the second-best cornerback.

So rather than continue to wait on Nnamdi Asomugha, they reached an agreement with Cincinnati free agent Johnathan Joseph on a five-year, $48.75 million contract with $23.5 million guaranteed and a $12.5 million signing bonus.

Joseph becomes the top defensive back for a team that, for a long stretch last season, had a historically bad pass defense. He will start, likely opposite last year’s No. 1 pick, Kareem Jackson, who struggled badly as a rookie. The team also has draft pick Brandon Harris and several guys who contributed to the terrible defense in 2010: Jason Allen, Brice McCain, Sherrick McManis and Antwaun Molden.

Glover Quin, the team’s best corner last season is in line to play free safety. The Texans are now in the market for a veteran strong safety to play with him. McClain said they are one of three finalists for Chicago free agent Danieal Manning who could decide on Friday.

Joseph is a good get, and surely has the endorsement of new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. Phillips had a strong say in a defense-heavy draft class as he transforms the team to a 3-4 scheme.

Here’s Scouts Inc.’s assessment of Joseph:
“Joseph is a good combination of size, strength and athleticism for a perimeter defender. He is explosive, quick and sharp out of his breaks. Joseph gets off the ground well and has very good overall speed. He reads plays well in zone and can stay on his opponent's hip in man coverage. He is a solid run-support player and a reliable tackler in the open field. Joseph has had some durability concerns throughout his career, but when healthy, he's an excellent cornerback.”

Joseph is a big-ticket acquisition for a team that doesn’t do a lot of big-ticket free agent shopping.

But he won’t be come in regarded as a savior. Maybe that’s part of the silver lining on not getting Asomugha. Had the Texans landed him, a lot of people outside the team, and perhaps some inside it, might have thought him the solution to all their problems.

Joseph is a good player who will be a good piece. But no one will expect him to fix the team on his own, so no one will be tempted to think it’s all taken care of.
[+] EnlargeJohnathan Joseph
Mitch Stringer/US PresswireThe Bengals had many opportunities to sign Johnathan Joseph before the lockout.
It's been an eventful day for the Cincinnati Bengals.

First, the team traded receiver Chad Ochocinco to the New England Patriots for two draft picks -- which was a wise move. But late Thursday, the Bengals also lost No. 1 cornerback Johnathan Joseph, who agreed to a five-year deal with the Houston Texans. That, folks, wasn't so wise.

For months we've predicted in the AFC North blog that the Bengals would lose Joseph. They had two chances to keep the up-and-coming corner -- last summer and in the winter before the lockout -- and Cincinnati kept dropping the ball by offering Joseph less than market value.

Joseph liked Cincinnati and gave the Bengals every chance to keep him. Cincinnati even had more than $35 million in cap space at its disposal due to mandatory spending in the new collective agreement.

But Joseph knew in the back of his mind that he would have no shortage of suitors once the lockout ended. Reportedly, the Texans, Bengals and Detroit Lions were all vying for his services, with the Texans eventually winning out. He joins a playoff contender with a big need at cornerback, and Joseph should do well there.

Meanwhile, the Bengals have to pick up the pieces in their secondary. For years I felt Joseph was the team's best defender and the player who made Cincinnati's defense go. He was excellent in coverage and one of the team's few defensive playmakers. Joseph also made fellow corner Leon Hall better, as well as the rest of the secondary.

The Bengals were counting on Adam Jones for insurance in case Joseph bolted in free agency. But Jones' legal woes puts that plan in jeopardy.

Cincinnati needs to start using that immense cap space ASAP, and it can start by patching the huge hole Joseph leaves behind.



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