The risk in bringing Stephen Tulloch into the Eagles nest is that Jim Schwartz will crack open and start the middle linebacker at the expense of the yet-to-hatch Jordan Hicks and the still-hatching Mychal Kendricks.

Even if the 31-year-old Tulloch were to remain a backup the entire season - an unlikely scenario considering the injury history of the Eagles linebackers - his addition is another win-now move by the front office.

The Eagles guaranteed $1.75 million of Tulloch's potential $3 million salary - cap space from this season that could have been rolled over into next year when their expenditures increase dramatically.

There is, of course, nothing wrong with wanting to win now. In fact, the Eagles' commitment is to be applauded, however shortsighted it is. Tulloch, on paper, should make the team better, and protect the Eagles if either Hicks or Kendricks were to get hurt.

But the addition of Tulloch is potentially at odds with the direction of the team - at least the rebuilding part. The Eagles have, after all, said they want to win now while building for the future, i.e. re-signing quarterback Sam Bradford while drafting Carson Wentz.

It's fair to question where Schwartz stands on the dichotomy. Tulloch is the fourth free agent the Eagles have signed who previously played for the defensive coordinator. The first three have prominent roles. Cornerback Leodis McKelvin, strong-side linebacker Nigel Bradham, and slot cornerback Ron Brooks are all penciled into first-team spots.

"Having guys like that, that are very comfortable with your defense or offense," Pederson said Monday, "just helps the overall learning and helps the overall process of the defense."

Schwartz is slated to meet with reporters Tuesday.

Bradham and Brooks haven't exactly forced the Eagles to hold off on developing youngsters, but McKelvin is clearly impeding second-year corner Eric Rowe's path. Rowe has struggled to adapt to Schwartz's scheme, but his youth didn't stop the Eagles from tossing him into a difficult situation last season, when he replaced the injured Nolan Carroll.

The Eagles invested significantly in Rowe, and the only way the second-round draft pick is going to learn - and he clearly has some talent - is to play. Isaac Seumalo was drafted in the third round this year, and while he clearly isn't ready to start, Pederson has him slotted ahead of the more-seasoned Stefen Wisniewski at left guard.

They're different circumstances, different positions, but why is Seumalo getting the benefit of youth and Rowe is not? The answer may be as simple as that the former was drafted by Howie Roseman, while the latter plays for Schwartz.

It's unlikely that Tulloch was really brought "in to compete" with Hicks, as Pederson said. The Eagles had over a month to sign him, and it's not as if Hicks has done anything in the preseason to suggest that his standing was precarious.

But what if Hicks were to struggle early in the season? Or what if, in a more likely scenario, Kendricks' inconsistencies were to resurface? Would Schwartz, who coached Tulloch for five seasons in Tennessee and Detroit, become impatient and insert the veteran into the middle and move Hicks into Kendricks' weak-side spot?

"I've played different positions before," Hicks said, "so if it happens I'll roll with the punches like I always do."

Short-term, it might make the defense better. But what would be the long-term benefit of benching either Hicks or Kendricks or moving Hicks to a new position or even utilizing Tulloch in a four-linebacker rotation?

"At least I went through it once," said Kendricks, who has blamed last season's rotation for his dip in production. "I'm just worried about today, but I'm going to do whatever is asked of me."

Hicks is 24 years old and entering only his second season in the NFL. The Eagles have him under contract for three more seasons. He has clearly shown enough for the team to project him as the middle linebacker for the foreseeable future.

Kendricks may have three more years of experience than Hicks, but he turns only 26 next month. He signed a four-year extension last August and is under contract through 2019. Yes, his salary isn't guaranteed beyond this season, but why would the Eagles give up on Kendricks just as he's returning to the scheme he was originally drafted to play?

Roseman and Pederson likely took the above scenarios into consideration and would prefer that Hicks and Kendricks remain full-time starters. But with Joe Walker's season-ending knee injury, they probably agreed to the concept of an "open competition" just to get Tulloch.

"He's competing for the spot," Pederson said. "Right now Jordan is a starter. . . . Just with the loss of Joe right now, we needed a linebacker."

But it's obvious that Schwartz thinks Tulloch is more than just any linebacker. Schwartz was with the Titans when the North Carolina State product was drafted in 2006 and eventually earned a starting role. And he was instrumental in bringing Tulloch to the Lions for his final two seasons there.

"I have a lot of respect for that guy and his production," Schwartz said a few weeks ago, when there was an initial report of the Eagles' interest.

Tulloch knows Schwartz's one-gap 4-3 penetrating defense perhaps as well as any player. But he still has to come in and get into game shape. That could take a couple of weeks. And then, who knows?

Maybe only Schwartz.

jmclane@phillynews.com

@Jeff_McLane