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Merriman was limited to 18 games over his final three seasons. And he finished with 45 1/2 career sacks in 75 games, including 59 starts.

Merriman also made headlines for his on- and off-field troubles.

In 2006, he was suspended by the NFL for four games after testing positive for steroids. He blamed the positive test on a tainted supplement, which he never identified. Despite being limited to playing 12 games, Merriman finished with a career-best 17 sacks that season.

In 2009, Merriman was arrested just before the season after reality television star Tila Tequila accused him of battery and false imprisonment at his suburban San Diego home. No charges were filed, and Merriman and Tequila settled dueling lawsuits.

Though it was unlikely the Bills were going to re-sign him, Merriman’s retirement marks the latest change to the team’s defense under new coach Doug Marrone, and new coordinator Mike Pettine.

The Bills this offseason have already released three veteran defensive players: cornerback Terrence McGee, safety George Wilson and linebacker Nick Barnett. Last week, defensive lineman Chris Kelsay announced his retirement after 10 seasons in Buffalo.

In thanking his fans and two former teams, Merriman said he intends to pursue other career opportunities. Merriman has dabbled in acting, is a fan of kick boxing and wrestling and has also worked as a model.

In January, Merriman showed off his tattoos as a model for PETA’s “Ink, Not Mink” campaign, to encourage people not to wear natural fur coats.

“I feel truly blessed to have been part of the NFL, and to have had the opportunity of a lifetime,” Merriman wrote. “I will continue to train with some of the guys not because of football, but it’s part of my Lifestyle.”