No, a first-round pick ain't too much to give up to acquire the rights to Sean Payton ... so says ex-NFL exec Michael Lombardi, who tells TMZ Sports trading for big-name coaches has almost always worked out for teams in the past -- no matter the cost.
Multiple teams have already lined up interviews with Payton to try to get him on board -- but each will have to send New Orleans something in return if he agrees to come along ... as the 59-year-old retired from the Saints in 2022 with two years still left on his deal.
The price is said to be an expensive one -- the Saints are reportedly asking for at least a first-rounder in a trade -- but Lombardi told us this week teams shouldn't hesitate to make that swap.
The former Cleveland Browns general manager pointed toward the Buccaneers' trade for Jon Gruden, the Patriots' deal for Bill Belichick, and the Jets' bargain for Bill Parcells as reasons he'd give up the precious draft capital for Payton.
"I think anytime that you've gone through these coaches that have gotten traded, the team that made the trade really won," Lombardi said. "So, yeah. Whatever it costs."
Lombardi said he'd expect the fee to vary from team to team ... explaining he thinks the Saints would charge more to the division-rival Panthers than the Arizona Cardinals. But, again, he said he expects it to be worth it.
As for where Payton will ultimately end up ... Lombardi says he believes it'll be the franchise that has an owner that Sean vibes with most.
There's more ... we also talked Tom Brady with Lombardi -- and he told us he's not so sure the 45-year-old is quite ready to call it a career just yet.