The Texans were in the running to land All-Pro cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha until late Thursday. They backed out of that race to pursue Joseph, a first-round draft pick by Cincinnati in 2006. The 27-year-old Joseph is three years younger than Asomugha and intercepted nine passes in the last two seasons.
Joseph's deal was for five years and worth $48.75 million, with $23.5 million guaranteed. He didn't seem to mind all the attention on Asomugha, and said that will only motivate him to perform well for Houston.
"We're in a smaller market (Cincinnati), so the name may not be known by a lot of people around the league," he said. "But I guess with the people who are making decisions in the front offices, they got the guys they wanted to get. I'm just looking forward to making good on their investment."
Houston agreed to terms with Manning after landing Joseph. The 6-foot Manning, a 28-year-old native of nearby Corsicana, started all 16 games for Chicago last season. He also returns kickoffs, another need for the Texans.
"I feel like I can bring a spark to the team and give us great field position there," Manning said.
Manning signed a four-year, $20 million contract with $9 million guaranteed, according to his Houston-based agent, Russel Hicks.
He played five years in Chicago after he was a second-round pick by the Bears in 2006. In 2008, Manning averaged 29.7 yards on kickoffs and in 2009, he made a career-high 92 tackles, forced two fumbles and intercepted a pass.
After he became a free agent, Manning said no team made as compelling an offer as the Texans did.
"It was a no-brainer for me," he said. "I really didn't get an offer that I thought was of value, that was good for me or my family. I knew, from the jump, when I hit free agency, that I wanted to come home and be here in Texas. My dream is coming true."
The Texans open training camp on Sunday.
Houston re-signed quarterback Matt Leinart, receiver Jacoby Jones and tackle Rashad Butler this week. The team announced Friday it had also re-signed defensive end Tim Bulman, who missed all of last season with a shoulder injury.
On Friday, the spotlight belonged to Joseph and Manning.
The Texans went 6-10 last season, and most of the blame fell on a pass defense that allowed a league-high 33 touchdown passes. Coach Gary Kubiak fired several defensive coaches and brought in Wade Phillips to implement a 3-4 alignment.
Joseph said the Texans also have assembled enough talent on the field to offer hope for the future. While they struggled on defense in 2010, Houston's offense ranked third in total yards (386.6 yards per game) and fourth in passing yards (259 per game).
"I always like to follow other teams around the league and see what they have going on in their situations as well," Joseph said. "Once I looked and explored around the league, I'd seen the Houston Texans had almost every piece to the puzzle, as far as offense and defense. They were just missing a couple of pieces in the back end, with the youth back there.
"To add a couple of veteran players, I think that was the first thing that lured me this way, because if you put the pieces to the puzzle and they become the right puzzle, I think the sky is the limit."
Also Friday, free agent linebacker Zac Diles agreed to terms with the St. Louis Rams. Diles started 10 games for Houston last season, after middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans went out for the season with a torn Achilles, and was the team's third-leading tackler (82).