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Bills coach Doug Marrone opts out of contract, becomes free agent

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Buffalo Bills coach Doug Marrone has opted out of his contract, the team announced Wednesday.

Marrone is now free to pursue other jobs.

From Bills owner Terry Pegula:

"Doug Marrone informed me late today that he has decided to exercise the option clause in his contract and relinquish his responsibilities as our head coach. We are disappointed that coach Marrone will no longer be an important part of our organization. We thank him for all of his hard work and leadership during his tenure and wish him and his family the best with the next chapter in their lives."

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The "escape clause" in Marrone's contract first came to light Monday, with it reported that the coach had a three-day window at the end of the season in which he could terminate his deal with the team. Wednesday was the final day of that window.

Marrone was hired as Bills coach in January 2013. After going 6-10 in Marrone's first season, Buffalo went 9-7 this year, giving the team its most wins and its first winning season since it had the same record in 2004. 

But the Bills failed to make the playoffs and haven't played in the postseason since 1999.

Despite the improvement this season, Buffalo faces several question marks going into 2015: Kyle Orton, who took over as starting quarterback during the 2014 season, has announced his retirement; the team is without a first-round pick in the 2015 draft due to last year's Sammy Watkins trade; and Pegula is early in his tenure as owner after buying the team following the death of founding owner Ralph Wilson.

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Marrone, 50, served as the head coach at Syracuse from 2009-12 before joining the Bills and has previously had assistant coaching jobs for multiple college and NFL teams.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports the New York Jets will have interest in hiring Marrone as head coach and the Bills will have interest in San Diego Chargers offensive coordinator Frank Reich.

The Bills join the Jets, Atlanta Falcons, San Francisco 49ers and Chicago Bears as teams with head coaching vacancies.

Ben Estes