Bills coach Marrone opts out, hits market

Updated: December 31, 2014, 7:35 PM ET

By Chris Mortensen, Adam Caplan and Adam Schefter | ESPN

Doug Marrone has opted out of his contract as coach of the Buffalo Bills and is now a free agent to pursue other jobs.

Marrone exercised the unique option during the final hours of a three-day window that opened Monday, stipulated in the four-year contract he signed with the Bills in 2013. The opt-out clause was included in the original contract in the event of an ownership change, which occurred when Terry and Kim Pegula purchased the franchise in October.

“We are disappointed that Coach Marrone will no longer be an important part of our organization,” Bills owner Terry Pegula said in a statement. “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.

“We will now begin the important process of conducting a thorough search for a new head coach as we continue to strive to reach our goal of returning to the playoffs and bringing a championship to Buffalo for our fans.”

While Marrone was negotiating an extension beyond the two years remaining on his four-year, $ 16 million deal, uncertainty over potential organizational changes influenced his decision, according to sources.

[+] EnlargeDoug Marrone

AP Images/Paul SancyaDoug Marrone opted out of his contract as coach of the Bills and is now a free agent to pursue other jobs available in the NFL.

Marrone’s clause also allows him to walk away with his 2015 guaranteed base salary of $ 4 million without it counting as an offset against any future salary even if he should land another job, sources said. Marrone now is free to negotiate with any team seeking a head coach.

Teams with current vacancies include the Chicago Bears, Atlanta Falcons, New York Jets, Oakland Raiders and San Francisco 49ers. When Marrone interviewed for a handful of jobs in 2013, he was offered the head-coaching position by the Bills and Browns and was a finalist with other teams when he agreed to coach the Bills.

Bills sources believe Marrone could have particular interest in the Jets, where he once served as offensive line coach for four years. Sources say the Jets will have strong interest in Marrone.

While it is believed Marrone would take some of his assistant coaches with him, most of them have contracts through 2015, according to a team source. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz’s deal is believed to run through 2016.

Under Marrone, the Bills went 6-10 and 9-7 while struggling to find a quarterback. E.J. Manuel was a first-round pick in 2013 who suffered injuries and eventually was benched after Week 4 this season.

The Bills signed Kyle Orton late in preseason to take over the position. Orton announced his retirement this week. The team also traded its 2015 first-round pick to draft wide receiver Sammy Watkins with the fourth overall pick in the 2014 draft.

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