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While Bears seek DE Jeremy Mincey, don’t rule out Mario Williams yet; Jason Campbell signs

HoustTexans top draft-pick defensive end Mario Williams (90) encourages crowd during first quarter against Kansas City Chiefs their pre-seasNFL football

Houston Texans top draft-pick defensive end Mario Williams (90) encourages the crowd during the first quarter against the Kansas City Chiefs in their pre-season NFL football game Saturday, Aug. 12, 2006, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

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Updated: April 15, 2012 8:16AM

The opening wasn’t a starting spot, but the Bears addressed one of their glaring needs Tuesday by signing veteran quarterback Jason Campbell to a one-year deal, according to a league source.

They also were trying hard to address defensive end, expressing strong interest in Jeremy Mincey, who had eight sacks for the Jacksonville Jaguars last season. Mincey, originally a sixth-round pick of the New England Patriots, was the 12th-rated 4-3 defensive end, according to Pro Football Focus. The Bears’ Julius Peppers, by contrast, was seventh. Mincey was seventh overall with 38 quarterback pressures.

The Bears aren’t alone, though, in seeking Mincey. The Cleveland Browns and Dallas Cowboys are also among the teams interested in him, according to a league source.

While the Buffalo Bills are hosting two-time Pro Bowl defensive end Mario Williams, another league source suggested the Bears weren’t necessarily out of the running. Williams told the Houston Chronicle he wouldn’t just go to the highest bidder.

Still, the addition of three-time Pro Bowl receiver Brandon Marshall ate up quite a bit of salary-cap space for the Bears. He’ll count $9.5  million in 2012. The Bears could, however, convert that high base salary into a signing bonus, lower his base salary to the veteran minimum of $715,000 and save about $5.8 million in space. But, the Bears would create problems in 2013, since Marshall’s projected base salary is $9.3 million.

Another option would be to extend Marshall’s contract another two or more years. The inclination, though, may be to wait and see how this season plays out.

The Bears also could create space by restructuring other deals or releasing other players. They would save $1.7 million by releasing running back Marion Barber.

Netting Williams would require a massive deal. The former No. 1 pick has had a strong career, and he wouldn’t have been a free agent, except the Houston Texans couldn’t afford to pay his franchise-tag contract of $22 million.

Peppers was guaranteed $42 million in 2010. Some believe Williams will get at least $45 million, perhaps up to $50 million.

The Bears started Tuesday with about $26 million in salary cap space. They signed cornerback Tim Jennings to a two-year deal before free agency opened, but terms of his deal aren’t known, either.

As for Campbell, he’ll be the backup to starter Jay Cutler, who missed the final six games last season with a broken thumb. In his absence, Caleb Hanie, who had flashed some potential in the NFC title game during the 2010 season, struggled mightily with three touchdowns against nine interceptions in four starts, all losses.

Campbell’s one-year deal indicates he’s biding time in hopes of landing a starting job next offseason.

The 25th overall pick in the 2005 NFL draft by the Washington Redskins, Campbell was traded in April 2010 to the Oakland Raiders for a fourth-round pick. He has a career 82.8 passer rating.

Last season, Campbell, 30, got the Raiders off to a 4-2 start before breaking his collarbone. The Raiders then paid a hefty price to trade for Carson Palmer, but he brought sketchy results.

It’s unclear if the Bears will bring back Josh McCown, an unrestricted free agent who performed well to close out the 2011 season. Nathan Enderle, a fifth-round pick out of Idaho, is currently on the Bears’ roster, as well.

The Bears also are believed to be interested in a tight end. Former Notre Dame tight end John Carlson is one of them, but he’s scheduled to visit the Kansas City Chiefs initially, a league source said.

Meanwhile, Kellen Davis, whom Bears coach Lovie Smith has praised several times, has visits lined up with the Cowboys, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cincinnati Bengals.

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