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Jimmy Garoppolo and the Patriots may be the real winners in Tony Romo’s retirement

The New England backup is now the top passer on the market.

NFL: Super Bowl LI-New England Patriots vs Atlanta Falcons Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Barring a rash change of heart, Tony Romo won’t be playing football in 2017. That is great news for the New England Patriots.

With Romo headed to the broadcast booth, Patriots’ passer Jimmy Garoppolo is now the most attractive option available to quarterback-needy teams. New England has been patient with Tom Brady’s backup, waiting for the market to unfold rather than making any rash decision to move him. As the pool of viable starters drains, head coach Bill Belichick can set his own price when it comes to moving the three-year veteran, who is under team control through at least 2018.

That’s worse news for teams like the Texans and Broncos — two franchises with dominant defenses who were only a steady quarterback away from a potential title run. Romo would have been a plug-and-play option who instantly elevated their anemic offenses. His veteran status would have also allowed those franchises to develop young quarterbacks under his guidance, whether it was a player already on the roster (Denver’s Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch) or someone selected in April’s draft (whoever Houston picks to extinguish the dumpster fire historically known as their QB depth chart).

The quarterback market had stalled while clubs waited on Romo and the Cowboys to act; only backups like Case Keenum, Mark Sanchez, and Chase Daniel have signed deals the past two weeks. Now, that onus falls on Garoppolo and the Patriots. New England had reportedly been holding out for a first-round draft pick, and potentially even more, for its young passer. The team will only get bolder with news the most accomplished player on the market is taking his talent to pregame shows. It could cost the Texans two premium picks to give their offense a fighting chance in 2017 — an especially expensive cost after giving up a second-rounder just to shed Brock Osweiler’s contract back in March.

Garoppolo isn’t the only quarterback to have his stock boosted by Romo’s retirement. Colin Kaepernick and Jay Cutler now become the No. 2 and No. 3 options in a limited portfolio, even if Cutler’s tanned butt is sending out hints he’s also nearing retirement. The draft’s top three passers — Deshaun Watson, DeShone Kizer, and Mitchell Trubisky, in some order — just saw their value rise as well. Though none of the three are considered elite prospects, the chance all could find starting roles at some point in 2017 just rose significantly.

That leaves six quarterback options — maybe seven, depending on how teams view Bengals’ backup AJ McCarron — in a league filled with hungry franchises. The Texans, Jets, and Browns have gaping holes at the top of their depth charts. The Broncos, Bears, and 49ers fall on the second tier of neediness. Teams like the Chiefs, Jaguars, and Cardinals are in bad-to-decent shape for 2017 but have big questions about the future of their positions.

Demand for quality passers surpassed the supply long before Romo decided to hang up his cleats. Now at least nine teams are primed to tap that shallow well before the 2017 season gets underway. The Patriots don’t have to trade Jimmy Garoppolo this offseason, but his value will only increase as teams get more desperate. With New England low on draft capital following trades for Brandin Cooks and Kony Ealy, expect Belichick and his crew to up the ransom needed to free Garoppolo from Foxborough.

Tony Romo once saved Dallas but is now retiring