HOUSTON -- Johnathan Joseph won't pretend he was deaf to the talk.
For the past two offseasons, people wondered if Joseph was in danger of becoming a salary cap casualty. His cap charge was $11.25 million in 2014 and this season it will be $12.5 million. There was just one problem. The Texans needed Joseph.
"Obviously I read the newspaper sometimes or I look on the Internet," said Joseph, who turned 31 in April. "When you go out in public, you hear things and people ask you questions and that’s part of the game. Any time you sign a big contract, you get in those later years, the expectations are high to play at a high level. And I think I’ve done that, so I’ve never really had that thought in my head. Management never came to me and said anything to me. I kind of never really thought about it once, really."
Joseph has been the Texans' starting cornerback since signing a five-year contract that averaged $9.75 million per year. He was a major free agent signing for the Texans, helping a dramatic turnaround for a pass defense that went from one of the worst in the NFL in 2010 to one of the best in 2011.
"I look at this defense, first and foremost, I always have a job," Joseph said. "A lot of times I go and face the top receiver and that’s a task … it comes with the territory and I never back down from that challenge. It’s one of those things I look forward to each and every year. Any time I have a chance to do that, I think I have a chance to live up to my contract."
In his time with the Texans, Joseph saw fellow cornerback Kareem Jackson's transformation from a struggling young corner to one who earned a four-year deal worth $8.5 million per year this offseason. The two are heading into their fifth season playing together.
"We know exactly what each other’s thinking without even having to communicate," Joseph said. "Although we communicate every play, I can look over to him and just give him a look, he reads my mind and knows exactly what I’m thinking. Just overall understanding the football itself. We kind of see it through the same set of eyes."
Joseph remained a fixture on the outside for the Texans. Last season the Texans often used Jackson as a slot corner when the defense called for one and outside when it didn't. It illustrated the importance of having three starting-caliber corners in today's NFL, and the Texans kept an eye toward that when drafting cornerback Kevin Johnson in the first round this year.
Johnson's addition doesn't make Joseph expendable, but it might hint at a succession plan if Joseph doesn't return to the Texans next season. He entering the final year of his contract with the Texans if he doesn't sign an extension before the season starts
Joseph believes he has a lot more to give.
He feels healthier than he has in the past two seasons, both of which followed offseason surgeries. After the 2012 season, Joseph had two sports hernia surgeries. He suffered a toe injury during the 2013 season that required surgery. This year Joseph is not coming off any surgeries.
"I’ve always been hungrier and said that I wanted to make a third contract in this league and get to that point," Joseph said. "I want my team to win and to be the best player I can possibly be. I still think I have some better years ahead of me. I think this will probably be my best season just from being healthy, being able to go through a full OTA session, being in this defense for a second year and obviously having great players around me."