Every year around this time, there’s renewed excitement about the teams in the AFC East and their perpetual effort to close the gap with the Patriots.

But it doesn’t take very long to learn it was nothing more than hype with no real substance, because the Patriots always prove they’re better and the challengers are not worthy.

At this point, it looks like this year won’t be any different.

The Jets, Bills and Dolphins would love nothing better than to dethrone the perennial division champs. They were all active during the “legal tampering period” in free agency. With money to spend, the Jets and Bills, in particular, made their respective splashes early in an attempt to inch closer to the defending Super Bowl champions, who have won the division 10 straight years.

Should the Patriots, who have done their usual sit-and-wait-and-let-the-smoke-clear on the big money free agents, be worried?

Not to the point their division streak is in serious jeopardy. Plus, it’s not outlandish to think the Patriots still have moves to make, and perhaps, a few things up their sleeve now that free agency is officially open. So it’s not time to be conceding anything to the opponents. At the very least, with what some of their AFC East challengers have already done, the games just got more interesting. And that’s a positive development for the league.

The Jets have made it a point to give young quarterback Sam Darnold a better chance to succeed in his second year. He’s the franchise, but didn’t have much help as a rookie. He will now, as they’ve surrounded him with a lot more talent.

They signed Le’Veon Bell to a four-year, $52.5 million contract. He’ll take over as the lead back, and also will provide Darnold a great outlet as a receiving back. He’s one of the best in the game in that capacity.

They also added slot receiver Jamison Crowder, a valuable piece to complement Robby Anderson. Even more important, they added protection, trading for Raiders guard Kelechi Osemele, who is a beast with a mean streak. They still need a center and a tight end, but the pieces they’ve already added will help Darnold. So will their new coach, Adam Gase.

It will be interesting to see how Bell transitions and how much the former Steeler demands the football. He’ll take pressure off Darnold, but will he ultimately be the difference in the Jets winning and losing? The Steelers didn’t miss him all that much when he sat out last year.

Defensively, the Jets suffered the embarrassment of losing linebacker Anthony Barr, who spurned their offer and went back to the Vikings. Landing former Ravens linebacker C.J. Mosley, however, soothes that wound a bit and helps the defense.

Up in Buffalo, the Bills have been incredibly active. Like the Jets, they’ve also tried to surround their young quarterback, Josh Allen, with more weapons. They signed former Bengals deep threat John Brown, along with former Cowboys slot receiver Cole Beasley. They also added blocking tight end Tyler Kroft and took care of huge needs along their offense line with the additions of center Mitch Morse and tackle Ty Nsekhe.

Those additions should help the offense, but Allen’s biggest problem last year was accuracy. He couldn’t harness his big arm. The Bills had the second-worst passing offense in the league last year, and third worst offense overall. So while all the additions are nice, the Bills’ fate still rests on Allen’s progression.

Buffalo Coach Sean McDermott always has the defense playing well. We’ll see if the offense follows suit.

Then, there’s the Dolphins, with their new coach, Brian Flores. This is a transition year for the Dolphins. To this point, they’ve signed two former Patriots, tight end Dwayne Allen and cornerback Eric Rowe. They appear to be moving on from quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Maybe they draft a quarterback and go with a veteran until the rookie is ready.

Bottom line, Miami is in no position to challenge the Patriots.

So while the Jets will be more competitive and the Bills have improved, the Patriots are still the cream of the division. There’s no reason to put a crown on anyone else just yet.