OWINGS MILLS — When Charles Scarff was not drafted back in April, he had a few options as to where he could try to make an NFL roster.
The former Delaware tight end knew he played a position that the Ravens’ offense valued as much as any other team. The numbers were favorable, too, as Baltimore did not draft a tight end or sign one in free agency.
So, Scarff decided his best option was to sign as an undrafted free agent with the Ravens.
“It’s a great opportunity here. The team loves their tight ends,” Scarff said after a practice during his first NFL training camp.
Camp has been “long and exhausting,” he said, much more grueling than preseasons were in college.
Only three teams used multiple tight end sets more than the Ravens in 2018. The use of these packages should only increase as last year’s tight ends coach, Greg Roman, transitions to offensive coordinator.
Three tight ends are locks to make the 53-man roster, one fewer than the Ravens kept a year ago.
“Last year, they traveled four,” Scarff said. “It’s a big, tight end-friendly offense. This is a good opportunity. There were other opportunities, but I thought that this one was the best one. It’s been a good fit.”
Of the three tight ends already in Baltimore, Scarff had a connection with two. Fifth-year tight end Nick Boyle is a fellow Blue Hen and Scarff shares an agency with 2018 first-round draft pick Hayden Hurst.
“I saw him a couple times at Delaware, but I just knew of him mainly,” Scarff said of Boyle. “He’s just a good guy that everyone talks about at Delaware.”
Hurst told Scarff how much he enjoys being a part of the Ravens organization when they met prior to the draft.
“I got to see him before the whole process started happening. I just knew this was a good place to go, and this was the best spot for me,” Scarff said. “He said he liked it here and he said they love their tight ends. He was here, so I knew there was be some good guidance.”
If the Ravens again keep four tight ends on their 53-man roster, Scarff will battle with fellow undrafted rookie Cole Herdman (Purdue) for the last spot. Ahead of the first preseason game, Scarff would appear to be in the lead, displaying an impressive set of hands along with an early chemistry with the Ravens’ quarterbacks.
In college, he was one of Delaware’s best receiving threats and a force in the red zone. Scarff caught 67 passes for 732 yards and 12 touchdowns in three seasons in Newark. The big-bodied (6-foot-5, 250 pounds) tight end began his collegiate career at Rutgers.
As a senior last fall, Scarff scored seven touchdowns as the Blue Hens earned their first FCS Playoffs berth since 2010. He recorded 498 yards on 43 receptions while earning first-team All-CAA and third-team All-American honors.
Boyle was not in college at the same time as Scarff, but he was glad to learn another dominant Delaware tight end would be joining him.
“I heard we were maybe getting a Delaware tight end. That was pretty exciting,” Boyle said. “He looks really good.”
Scarff has also turned the head of tight ends coach Bobby Engram.
“Charles is a big, physical guy at the line of scrimmage who has to continue to play with better pad level,” Engram said. “He also does some things really well in the pass game.”
Tight ends have been the favorite target of second-year quarterback Lamar Jackson. He had an especially strong on-field connection with fellow rookie Mark Andrews.
Scarff studies Andrews’ route-running. He tries to emulate Boyle’s blocking. As he tries to find his own niche with the Ravens, Scarff is happy to learn from the more experienced tight ends in his unit.
“I’m still trying to find my role,” he said. “I’m learning more stuff each and every day, learning from every one of them – learning the run blocking game from Nick and Hayden, then a lot of the passing game from Mark. I’m just learning a lot and I’m just trying to get better.”
Boyle was set to become an unrestricted free agent following the 2018 season. If he had hit the open market, the two Delaware products may have never united just a short drive down I-95 from their college campus.
But the Ravens were intent on keeping Boyle, signing him to a new three-year, $18 million contract before the start of free agency.
“He’s the best blocking tight end in the league,” head coach John Harbaugh said at the time. “There’s no question in my mind about that.”
With the new deal, Boyle, 26, suddenly became the old man of the unit and the role model for another Delaware tight end trying to make it onto the Ravens’ roster.
“I lean on them all, but I would probably say Nick a little bit more because he’s an older guy,” Scarff said. “And he’s a Delaware guy. I’ve been learning from him about everything. They love him, he’s a great player and he’s the best at what he does. He’s a good guy to kind of lean on.”
Follow Sean Grogan on Twitter: @Sean_CecilWhig