As the clock ticks down on Tuesday's 4 p.m. trade deadline, the Patriots certainly have holes that could be filled if they choose to go that route.

With the loss of linebacker Dont'a Hightower to a torn pectoral muscle, the defense not only misses the veteran's leadership but his ability rushing the passer as well as his presence in the middle of the second level.

While Hightower's position may be the most difficult to replace, Patriots coach Bill Belichick can go in any variety of directions to improve his team.

During Monday's conference call, Belichick gave a detailed answer when it comes to his approach at the trade deadline.

"Well, generally speaking, I think there are some teams that most teams aren’t going to be involved with — you know, probably their direct competitors in this type of a situation," Belichick began. "Not saying it can’t happen, I just would say that’s a little more unusual. I mean, beyond that, some teams you have more conversations in the league with them than others, but in the end, I’m sure personnel departments in the league are doing the same thing. You look at your roster, you look at the players who are not on your roster — whether they’re on your practice squad or whether they’re on some other team’s practice squad or whether they’re not on anybody’s team — and you put together a list of players that, if you had a need arise, would be the group of players that you go to.

"And, in conjunction with that, you look at the rosters of the other 31 teams in the league, and based on what you know, other information that you gather, the inactive list every week and the play time, you can start to see which players have a diminished role in another team’s system, for whatever those reasons are."

With that list compiled, Belichick can use it as a framework for trades. He used a swap with the Tennessee Titans in 2014 that brought in linebacker Akeem Ayers as an example.