Poor soil health purportedly limits crop yield and on-farm profitability in environments with a history of intensive tillage. Research was conducted to determine if cover cropping improves basic soil physical properties, crop productivity, and economic parameters in conventionally tilled soils. The effects of irrigation and cover crop species on bulk density, water infiltration rate, cotton yield, and net returns were evaluated on a Dundee silty clay loam (Fine-silty, mixed, active, thermic type Typic Endoqualfs) near Tribbett, MS in 2017 and a Leeper silty clay loam (fine, smectitic, nonacid, thermic Vertic Epiaquepts) near Starkville, MS from 2017 through 2018. Relative to the fallow production system, cereal rye and crimson clover decreased bulk density 4.6% but had no effect on water infiltration rate. Pooled over year and location, cover crop had no effect on lint yield in either irrigated or non-irrigated environments. However, transitioning from conventional to a cover crop system reduced net returns for cotton $50.22/ha to $307.87/ha on average. Our data indicate that while transitioning from a conventional to a fall cover crop production system, modest improvements in some soil physical properties due to cover crop establishment will not increase cotton productivity but will decrease net returns.