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ORLANDO — Fans of the Buffalo Bills can exhale. The team is staying in western New York — at least for the next six seasons.

Well before he died Tuesday at the age of 95, Bills owner Ralph Wilson made sure to extend the franchise's lease at the stadium named after him over a 10-year span beginning in 2013 that includes a buyout option available after the 2019 season.

"Bills fans can relax. Ralph Wilson really left Bills fans and western New York a tremendous gift," league consultant Marc Ganis, president of Chicago-based consulting firm Sports Corp, told USA TODAY Sports on Wednesday.

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Ganis has worked on projects, including new stadium and relocation deals, for most of the league's 32 franchises. He said the plan of succession in Buffalo calls for the eventual sale of the franchise. But for now it will remain in the name of Wilson's wife, Mary. Indications are that the sale of the team would then be handled by a trust.

"There is no rush," Ganis said. "Nothing will happen for at least four months. And the league's finance committee will be heavily involved because this is an NFL franchise, and there are a lot of rules."

There is also a grieving process still playing out in Buffalo and across the league.

"Our priority right now is to focus on the people at One Bills Drive and to focus on (Wilson). All of that will come at a later time," Bills president Russ Brandon told USA TODAY Sports on Wednesday.

"The outpouring of support from fellow owners and league executives has been unbelievable. We're dealing with the loss of one of the most cherished figures in league history. The process for us is to continue to fulfill his legacy and focus on winning. That's what he would want us to do."

PHOTOS: Remembering Ralph Wilson

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The sale of the Bills is expected to follow a path similar to the one taken by the New York Jets. Woody Johnson eventually bought the team after the 1999 death of Leon Hess, who stipulated in his will that the team not remain in his family. The New York investment firm Goldman Sachs advised the team on the sale.

Johnson, who outbid Cablevision's Charles Dolan, purchased the Jets for $635 million in 2000.

"When Leon Hess passed away, there was a specific plan to have the team sold through a public process," Ganis said.

It is also worth noting that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was born and raised in western New York and has a great affinity for Wilson and his franchise.

"I haven't focused on that," Goodell said Wednesday while referencing the franchise's future. "Obviously, my thoughts and my heart are with the Wilson family. That's not something I've spent any time on in recent days. We all know they have a lease.

"We know the terms of that lease. And we also know we have to find a long-term solution to keep the Bills there. And that's what we'll continue to work to do. But that's not our priority right now in the next few days."

Goodell said he plans to attend Wilson's funeral.

The NFL has lost one of the most influential figures in shaping what the league is today. Buffalo Bills founder and owner Ralph Wilson, Jr., has died. He was 95. VPC

"Yesterday was a sad day for the NFL," he said. "For a lot of us in the NFL, he was a special man and someone that — coming from western New York — I know how much he did for the western New York region, and I also know what he's done for the NFL, having seen it firsthand. ... As a commissioner, I saw that he's a great owner. He was the kind of guy who was principled. He was strong.

"He understood when to compromise. He's going to be missed by the NFL and by me, personally."

Wilson entered the Hall of Fame in 2009 after five decades as an owner.

"He has really done incredible things for the league and pro football in general," Goodell said. "That's something that will be a great legacy for him."

Hopefully for the extended Bills family and the fans mourning Wilson's loss, the long-term continuance of the Bills in Buffalo will be a continuing part of Wilson's legacy.

Contributing: Jarrett Bell from Orlando

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Follow Jim Corbett on Twitter @ByJimCorbett

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